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CHICAGO — As cases of COVID-19 increase, so do mental health concerns.

Doctors who are trying to keep up with their patients in a new world say staying connected is vital.

Claudia Welke is the Chief Medical Officer at Compass Health. She knew she had to offer a new way to help people in these changing times.

“Our patients are really struggling with all the uncertainty,” she said. “These are people who have struggled with anxiety and depression more chronically. And right now all this uncertainty is really wreaking havoc on them.”

Welke said she has advised those with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder and other mental health issues

“(They are) saying this is really triggering for me all these questions of cleanliness,” she said. “Those that are depressed or feeling a little bit more disconnected, their symptoms are bubbling up as well.”

Suicide hotline calls are skyrocketing and psychiatrists know, while they need help, the patients have to stay away from the hospital which could be filled with people spreading COVID-19.

“It’s a population that can very easily right now end up in crisis and need to go to the emergency room,” Welke said. “So the focus really is to keep them away from the emergency room. It’s the last place anyone wants to be and we feel like it’s our responsibility to do that.

The blending of therapy and social distancing brought patients, support groups and their doctors to the virtual world.

Patients told WGN News the connection to others is important to know “you’re not alone in this.”

“We treat kids as young as 10 to adult 75-plus, Welke said. “And I think of all ages, we are really hearing back that they’re saying, ‘Thank goodness were able to stay connected.’”

And that’s the message for everyone at home. Therapy veterans and their doctors know how to stay safe.

“Our message is to stay connected,” Welke said. “If you need treatment, make sure that you`re getting in for treatment.”