Crash of the Fourth Wave

Caryn Thompson, CPS-P

It was only a year ago that we were discussing what the fourth wave of the pandemic might be, and here we are with it crashing all around us. As the Lancaster Community is returning to work, school, and play, we are carefully navigating the jagged rocks among the shore while we experience the harsh water, undertow, and pull of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress-disorder(PTSD). We wonder if this is just the fourth wave, or if it will also be the fifth and the sixth. 

The findings of mental health community screenings are showing that people experiencing anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other lower-level mental health diagnoses, have more than tripled as we are transitioning from mid-pandemic isolation to our current state of living. Individuals are also seeking additional access to services and resources for these conditions. The additional stimulation of being in larger group settings and returning to a hurried lifestyle are adding to the stress and depression our community is feeling.

While living in isolation, people had the ability to slow-down, have more personal time, deeper conversations, exercise, focus on meal-planning, and think about what they needed in their lives. Now that so many Lancaster community members are back in the office, 40% are struggling with increased anxiety or depression, up from 25% pre-pandemic.  Many are having difficulties with sleeping and eating. There is also an increase in addiction and substance use throughout our county. 

One thing that has not changed is that these challenges are disproportionately affecting people of color and those living in low-income neighborhoods. Non-Hispanic, black adults are experiencing depression at a rate of 48% and Hispanic-Latinx adults at the rate of 46%.  Accessing mental health services has always been difficult in these communities. Finding a therapist who can relate to an individual’s experience, whether it be in terms of culture, religion, or community dynamic, is important. We need to do better Lancaster County. We can do better.

If the waves keep coming, look for the lifeboats. Call United Way’s #211 line where they can provide you with resources throughout the county. If you have a mental health emergency, reach out to the Crisis line at 717-394-2631. If you are an employer wanting to set up a mental health training for your management or staff, Mental Health America of Lancaster offers QPR, Question Persuade, Refer, a suicide prevention training. They can also create a training to fit the needs of your organization. If you are an individual or family who needs mental health services and you do not have access to insurance or an Employee Assistance Program, Mental Health America of Lancaster also has the Community Mental Health Assistance Program, CMAP. Reach out to MHA at 717-397-7461 or find us online at

There are many such resources throughout Lancaster County, reach out and let someone help you find them. The current of anxiety and depression does not have to drag you along with it as another wave crashes. The community is here to help.


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