April 16, 2020
Just a few years ago, Taz Watson was a top running back for Millsaps, finishing the 2016 season with 644 yards and 14 touchdowns. He graduated in 2017 with degrees in neuroscience and cognitive systems and business administration.
Today, as a charge nurse in the child inpatient unit at the University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute, he spends his days working with patients diagnosed with a range of conditions including autism, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder, disruptive mood disorder, and depression.
The impact of coronavirus has changed all that.
“Before the coronavirus, our kids were already dealing with their individual mental obstacles, but now there are direct coronavirus challenges that affect their treatment,” Watson said. “The social distancing measures that are needed to reduce the risk of spreading the virus take away a strong support system that our kids rely on.”
Watson said his team is seeing the impact beyond their young patients.
“Before the global pandemic, mental health was often overlooked because you cannot ‘see’ it,” said Watson. “But now, people who have not been diagnosed with a mental illness are experiencing anxiety, depression, and depression-like symptoms. These people, our people, are struggling and it’s our job, not only those of us in the mental health field but also everyone out there, to support them to the best of our ability.”
Keeping the mind and body strong and stimulated are also keys to dealing with the challenges of social isolation, Watson said.
“Read a book, learn something new, go on walks, runs, hikes, or workout at home or a park, as long as you’re keeping the appropriate social distancing,” he said. “Also, check in on people to make sure they are doing okay. Be there and support each other.”