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June 22, 2020
Nearly half of all Sioux Falls residents who responded to a recent survey said they have struggled with loneliness, anxiety or depression since the pandemic started.
Forty-eight percent said they had experienced those feelings, on par with the 47 percent who said they were struggling when surveyed in April.
Those feelings track with what staff members are hearing from callers to the Helpline Center, CEO Janet Kittams said.
“We’re continuing to hear that people are feeling that stress and anxiety related to the COVID pandemic for a lot of different reasons,” she said.
“In some cases, it’s financial because they’re not fully back at work. They’re back at work part time but not making the income they were before, and I think some of it is because the world is different now and people are still trying to figure out how to navigate the new world where COVID is present all the time. What does that mean for their personal interactions and going out in the community?”
The survey was conducted by SiouxFalls.Business and the Augustana Research Institute.
More than 700 readers shared insight into how they’re approaching reopening and recovery during COVID-19 in an open survey conducted from June 1-8. It is not a scientific survey, but it does include representation from all age groups. Respondents were about 70 percent female and 30 percent male.
Our respondents also reflect a few populations. They are most likely English speakers. They are more likely to own a home. And they likely are engaged with news, or they would not have found the survey. So keep those things in mind to avoid thinking this survey should stand as representative for the entire community.
“Not being able to hug my adult kids and my grandkids really sent me in a struggle,” one respondent said.
“Missed my kids – I saw them but they were scared to get me sick; I missed coffee shops and the gym, my church, normal routine,” another said.
“It is a strange, new world that takes some getting used to. The inability to be with friends is the hardest,” another said.
Respondents to the survey continued to say they are experiencing job worries, with 14 percent saying they don’t feel their job secure. That’s better than the April survey, though, when 25 percent said they didn’t feel their jobs were secure.
“I think we have heard from folks from every industry out there – hospitality, retail, and actually people in the professional world have experienced a cut in pay. I think on some level almost everybody has been touched,” Kittams said.
“We hear from so many people who have never experienced anything like this where they’ve had to ask for help or financial support, and that’s just hard to reconcile. Some of the calls we hear now are folks that are in really tough spots. They’ve experienced the loss of a job, or their financial situation has changed quite a bit, and there’s just a strong feeling of despair because they don’t know if they will be back to what their life was like before.”
Recent civil unrest in Sioux Falls and elsewhere also prompted more calls, though not a significant increase, she said.
“There’s more of a shock factor here locally because in people’s hearts they didn’t expect it and didn’t want it to happen, so it was harder for them to believe what they saw here,” she said. “Most of the time we just visit with people and talk through what their feelings are and listen and offer support.”
Respondents often mentioned reducing their news and social media consumption to help them feel less upset. They also pointed to online church services, meditation, therapy and getting outside as ways to cope.
“At first, you could cope by doing unusual things – like having a cocktail at 4 p.m. in your pajamas. But after a few weeks, that lost its novelty and just made things worse,” one respondent said. Going back to the basics helped a ton – get some sleep, drink more water, go for a walk, be outside.”
At the Helpline, staff members have commonly heard of people coping with comfort food and by turning to exercise, Kittams said.
“We’ve all coped a little differently with the last couple months,” she said.
“The thing I found very heartening is that people were so willing to reach out and connect with a friend or family member through the phone or through a Zoom call to just touch base, and I think that was so powerful. When we would talk to people on the phone, they mentioned several times that was a lifeline to have that connection.”
Are you feeling more anxious or lonely during the pandemic? Your fellow Sioux Falls residents say you’re far from alone.