Social worker sees more anxiety and depression in current health climate

Mental health has become a major health concern, especially in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as the numbers of people looking online for help has increased significantly. According to a study by Mental Health America, more than 5.4 million people took mental health screens in 2021, a 500 percent increase over 2019.

For people seeking help with mental health issues, it is the professionals that often end up being the lifelines. And during the pandemic lockdown when people stayed home most of the time, being able to seek therapy and counseling services online made all the difference.

Megan Harcourt of Springfield became a social worker by chance, after stumbling into the field while taking a class at Wright State University.

Describing her background as “traditional” and raised by parents married for decades, Harcourt developed an altruistic heart and a passion for giving back from watching her mother, Kathy Brown, who also struggled with bi-polar disorder her entire life.

“My mom’s struggle was always there, but she also always had medication,” Harcourt said. “I think she inspired me by her community involvement without even meaning to!”

Harcourt graduated from Carrol High School in Dayton and said she had no idea what she wanted in terms of a career. But after taking a social work class, she said she suddenly knew what her profession would be.

“After I graduated from Wright State, I was 21 and started looking for internships,” Harcourt said.

But instead of staying in Dayton, she was referred to a position in Springfield, mainly because of her interest in working with the Hispanic population.

From 2007-2013, Harcourt worked for Clark County Children’s Services, performing various duties from visiting children living in foster care to removing children from unsafe homes. She was eventually hired to a full-time position and ultimately decided to pursue a master’s degree in social administration.

With all those balls in the air, Harcourt’s schedule was remarkably busy. Then in 2010, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma after having breathing issues and a fever. Enlarged lymph nodes were later determined to be cancerous. Harcourt continued to work and attend classes while going through chemotherapy and radiation for six months, eventually going into remission.

In 2013, Harcourt began working as a behavioral health therapist for Rocking Horse Community Health in Springfield, which specializes in working with the underserved communities in Springfield.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for Harcourt, who decided to look for more opportunities to work remotely after the lockdown in 2020 forced her to stay home.

“I decided to apply for a social work position with Thriveworks in Dayton,” Harcourt said. “I was immediately drawn to the idea of providing online therapy and making it easier for people to get the help they need.”

Today, Harcourt continues her job with Rocking Horse Community Health but also works part time as a social worker for Thriveworks, a company offering both in-person and online appointments for individuals struggling with a myriad of mental health disorders. She specializes in treating anxiety, depression, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Companies like Thriveworks have provided easier access for people that need help,” Harcourt said. “Online services are less stressful for the clients and the therapists.”

Harcourt also confirms what professional studies revealed – people in general experienced more anxiety and more depression than ever before during 2020 and 2021.

“I have seen so much high anxiety and it isn’t going away anytime soon,” Harcourt said. “We have hundreds of people waiting for care and, ironically, therapists are all overworked and have to watch our own stress levels.”

This is especially important for cancer survivors, like Harcourt, who remains in remission after her cancer was caught in the early stage. She constantly works to keep a good balance between her professional and personal life. And spending time with her parents, who live in Beavercreek, is vital to her own mental health. She has also been a single parent since 2020 and is raising an 8-year-old son.

“Community mental health is stressful but is also very rewarding,” Harcourt said. “My heart is in Dayton, and I’d really love to move back there one day.”

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