GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The demand for mental health care has increased during the pandemic, especially among front-line workers.

Therapist Dan Zomerlei, the co-owner of Grand Rapids-based Alliance Counseling Group, has seen it firsthand.

“Maybe in years prior, there’d be a handful of cases every month, every year, more infrequent. Now it seems that we’re hearing nurses, doctors are having to face more of these stories,” Zomerlei said.

“It seems that things are much more difficult. The work stress that they feel is pretty ubiquitous. It permeates. And it’s hard to not bring that home sometimes,” he continued. “There’s different things, symptoms, changes in sleep, changes in appetite, mood changing, things like that as well, but certainly those things that most people seem to notice is the functioning. Like I hear from people ‘Man, I’ve been such a jerk to my family lately.'”

The high demand is straining the capacity of the mental health system.

“The last couple months, we’ve had to turn away just about as many calls or new referrals as we’ve been able to take due to lack of therapist availability,” Zomerlei said. “This is all taking a toll on a lot of people in these helping roles, too.”

Zomerlei says whether the new demand will continue or if the need has been temporarily amplified because of the pandemic remains to be seen.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I hope it’s more short-term, people can find what they’re needing and can feel safe,” Zomerlei said.