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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: May 5, 2020

Mental Health and COVID-19

Every May, we mark Mental Health Awareness Month, acknowledging the millions of Americans who live with a mental illness every day. We know that dealing with COVID-19 makes this even more challenging. Now more than ever is a time to resist mental health stigma, educate ourselves about mental illnesses, and provide support to those who need it.

Regardless of background or identity, anyone can experience the distress of mental illness.  Mental health conditions don’t discriminate based on race, gender or identity. But not everyone has the same access to getting quality care or feels comfortable asking for help. Reach out if you need help or stand with someone who needs the support.

COVID-19 Can Impact Mental Health Conditions
COVID-19 is affecting us all in one way or another. For some, it’s an inconvenience. For others, it can trigger past trauma, compound existing mental health issues, or deepen feelings of loneliness or despair. Social distancing can be hard on those of us who already feel socially isolated. It may contribute to new or existing conditions such as depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or other mental and behavioral disorders. For people who feel unsafe in their homes, the stay home order could be making their situation worse. 

Others could be at greater risk for mental health concerns because of direct experience with COVID-19. They or a loved one may have become seriously ill, or a loved one may have died. First responders and healthcare professionals could also be at greater risk for experiencing mental health issues, given their risk of exposure to the virus, concern about infecting and caring for their loved ones, concerns about personal protection, longer work hours, and involvement in decision making around resources that may be in short supply. 

Healthcare workers needing mental health support can text “FRONTLINE” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 for fast, free counseling.  The Physician Support Line also provides free counseling for physicians, and is available seven days a week, from 8am-12am, EST, at (888) 409-0141

How do I know if I should seek help? What do these feelings look like? 
While the experience may look different for each individual, one of the most important things to look for are sudden changes in thoughts or behaviors. Here are some other things to look out for in yourself or a loved one: 

  • Isolation from school, work, family or friends.

  • Inability to perform daily tasks like bathing, brushing teeth, brushing hair or changing clothes.

  • Rapid mood swings, increased energy level, inability to stay still, pacing, sudden
    depression, withdrawal, sudden happiness or calm after a period of depression.

  • Paranoia, suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.

  • Losing touch with reality (psychosis), inability to recognize family or friends, or confusion.

  • Increased agitation, verbal threats, violent, out-of-control behavior or destroying property.

  • Abusive behavior to self and others, including substance use or self-harm (cutting).

What should I do if I, or someone I love, has these feelings? 
Mental health should be a priority for all of us. It’s natural to experience feelings of grief, anger, sadness, and anxiety during this time. There are many tips and ideas to maintain your mental health, but if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or if you need additional help, you are not alone. There are resources available:

  • SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. Contact them at (800) 985-5990, text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24/7 assistance at 1-800-273-8225 or chat now with Lifeline.

  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year support for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Contact them at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year support for anyone affected by abuse. Contact them at (800) 799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522.

  • Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS) is a local organization that provides support services to victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Contact them at (877) 715-1563.

  • Brigid Collins is a local organization that works to end child abuse, and provides support services to chldren and families. Contact them at (360) 734-4616.

More resources can be found on the Whatcom Unified Command website.

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