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Tempe seeing extreme mental illness and substance abuse cases amid pandemic

“People who before may have felt some mild depression now feel suicidal,” said Kristen Scharlau said.

PHOENIX — The pandemic has affected everyone throughout the state, but for some already battling some level of mental illness or substance abuse, this past year has been the breaking point. 

A recent rally on Phoenix city streets highlighted the spike in mental illness and substance abuse during the pandemic. 

The rally was organized by Victory Outreach Church of Phoenix. The church helps people get back on track physically and spiritually. Here’s one of many similar testimonials. 

“I was just addicted to meth, heroine,” said Priscilla Garcia. “I was just lost, I was broken, I was suicidal. I didn’t have anything to live for anymore. And when I came here, I felt peace. I felt comfort. And I felt like I had a place.”

Another local place where people can find support for mental illness, substance abuse and more is CARE 7. 

CARE 7 is operated by the City of Tempe. Kristen Sharlau, who oversees the program, says recently cases have become more extreme and severe. 

“People who before may have felt some mild depression now feel suicidal,” she explained. 

She added that the same goes for students who were managing issues through their friends and stable adults in the schools. 

“Especially if their home isn’t the most supportive environment for them, we’ve really seen an uptick in those types of behaviors; where, there is more substance abuse, there’s more suicide,” Sharlau said.  

If you need help, CARE 7 is there for you in a variety of ways, including food, daycare and counseling. 

“Now is not the time to sweep it under the rug,” Sharlau said. “We want to be honest about how the pandemic has affected all of us.” 

Here are links to helpful resources: 


Contact for Victory Outreach

Phoenix House

Find a Free Rehab Center