As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on America’s mental health, local providers are urging their patients to take long walks in open spaces, reach out to friends, breathe deeply — and, in some cases, check themselves into a hospital.

In October, for instance, 182 adults and 24 children visited emergency screening centers of the Cumberland County Guidance Center, a primary mental health nonprofit based in Millville, Clinical Director Josephine White said.

Of those seeking help, 54 adults and 10 children were experiencing acute symptoms, such as nonstop crying or incapacitating anxiety, and were referred for in-patient treatment, said White. The number for the same month in 2019: 116 adults screened, 33 hospitalized; 87 children screened, 17 hospitalized. The decrease in children screened and hospitalized was attributed to “lack of school behavioral referral during virtual learning.”

Those numbers have “not quite doubled” from previous months but have “gone up quite a bit,” White said.

With greater frequency, people are turning to methamphetamines, fentanyl (considered more addictive and lethal than heroin), and alcohol, said Kathryn Gibson, director of recovery services at Cape Assist in Wildwood.

Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson is proposing a countywide municipal court system b…

The increase in demand for mental health services reported by White, Gibson and other providers at area non-profits appears consistent with national trends.