CDC adds depression, schizophrenia to list of underlying health conditions for severe COVID-19; eligible to get booster shot

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 8:00 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added depression and schizophrenia to the list of underlying health conditions that would put someone at a higher risk for a severe COVID-19 diagnosis.

With the CDC adding these mental health conditions to the list, those diagnosed are eligible to get the COVID-19 booster shot.

Burrell Behavioral Health psychiatrist, Dr. Lorri Darrow says those mood disorders put people at a higher risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19. Dr. Darrow says it’s not uncommon for people with mental illnesses to also have other medical conditions that go untreated.

“Doing simple things that everybody else takes for granted,” Dr. Darrow says. “For someone that is chronically depressed, even just getting to an appointment or having the courage to talk about their symptoms is very difficult.”

Dr. Darrow says chronic mental illness relates heavily to severe illness from COVID-19. Because of that, Dr. Darrow says she’s thankful depression and schizophrenia have been added to the list of underlying health conditions. This allows people to get the added layer of protection with the booster shots.

“Individuals don’t get the medical care that they really need, and it is very difficult for them to do the simple things,” Dr. Darrow says. “For instance, if someone has depression, it’s very difficult for them to even make a call to get an appointment to see someone.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, NAMI, executive director Stephanie Appleby is not only an advocate for those with mental health conditions. Appleby also lives with a mental illness herself.

“Feeling inclusive is a big part of that,” Appleby says. “Feeling validated that this is a real thing and that because you have this, that this is a booster you can get because of that diagnosis is huge.”

Appleby says it’s easy for people to overlook mental illness because it can’t be seen.

“That’s what a lot of people have said to me. You don’t look sick, but I do live with a mental illness, and it’s very difficult,” Appleby says.

Dr. Darrow says that’s why the CDC including mental health conditions as underlying health conditions for a booster shot is a major step in the right direction.

“We need to be able to place the importance of mental illness on the same level as physical illness. By placing that importance where it needs to be, we can save lives in the process,” Dr. Darrow says.

The Burrell pharmacy is offering the Moderna vaccine to eligible community members. More information can be found here.

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