While 70 percent of Americans are worried about their physical health due to COVID-19, 58 percent are concerned about their mental health during social distancing, according to a nationwide study released by the Cohen Veterans Network.
The national, not-for-profit philanthropic organization’s findings revealed two-thirds, or 64 percent, of Americans report feeling anxious, yet only one in six, or 16 percent, of households have accessed mental health care as a result of the pandemic.
Isolation can have negative consequences in terms of anxiety, depression and suicidality, according to Anthony Hassan, the Chief Executive Officer of CVN.
“We are beginning to see a significant impact on the mental health of everyday Americans as a result of the pandemic,” Hassan said. “Before the pandemic, there was already a mental health crisis in America. With high demand and relatively limited resources, the pandemic appears to be making it worse.”
Matthew Hardy, a regional vice president of Centerstone in Tennessee, said services are increasing at their Middle Tennessee facilities, with tele-video and telephone counselling up some 500 percent.
It’s been about five weeks since Centerstone began making the service changes, which would normally include counselling in an office.
Now, all of the staff members are working from home, talking to clients using Centerstone’s telehealth methods.
“We don’t want any of our patients to have any interruptions in their care,” Hardy said. “Also, anyone experiencing emotional or mental health duress needs to be able to still access our care.”
Hardy said during this pandemic is impacting everyone, which is very unusual.
“People who may have been doing reasonably well prior to the pandemic are now struggling,” Hardy said. “And folks who were struggling with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression, may be struggling even more so now.”
Too close for comfort
Tensions can sometimes arise with people being confined into one area, even if they’re family members.
“Creating structure in our daily lives will help us maintain some normalcy, and a balance, now that we are all practicing being safe-at-home and being sequestered,” Hardy said. “Taking a walk and exercise can give us time to ourselves and away from the family if we need a break.”
Hardy said it’s important to balance activities between time for yourself and time spent engaging with the family.
Children no longer attending school can become bored, giving them a sense of apprehension and anxiety.
Creating structure, not only for our children, but also for ourselves, can help manage some of the tension of being together so much, according to Hardy.
“COVID-19 is a chronic, traumatic event,” Hardy said. “We anticipate an end point, but we cannot see that end point, which can be very overwhelming.”
Managing anxiety and depression
“Social distancing has led many of us to have an incredible disruption in our normal processes, the normal things we do day-to-day, which can feel very upending,” Hardy said. “This is all in the midst of dealing with this traumatic event.”
Normally, Hardy said when facing traumatic situations, people are encouraged to keep as close to their normal routine as possible, in order to bring in a sense of balance.
That task is completely challenged during the pandemic.
“Everything we were doing prior to COVID-19, we’re not able to do,” Hardy said. “Even healthcare workers and first responders, who are still able to work, have had their lives upended.”
While practicing the social distancing directed by local and state authorities, Hardy said it’s imperative for people in the community to maintain social connectiveness.
While maintaining our distances physically, we need to call people to check on them.
“We need to be using our applications like Facetime and other resources available, going out of our way to be cognizant and thoughtful of reaching out to those around us,” Hardy said. “It’s good for those we are reaching out to and it also good for us.”
When people notice someone not coping well, Hardy encourages inquiry.
“Ask them how they are doing, how are they feeling,” Hardy said. “It’s OK to ask someone if they have thoughts of suicide or of hurting themselves.”
If they answer yes, Hardy said it’s important to assist them in getting help right away.
“Putting them on the phone with a crisis line is a good place to start,” Hardy said. “Of course, with an imminent, or immediate risk, we would need to call 911, in order to get them help right away.”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour free and confidential support for people in distress. Call: 1-800-273-8255 for assistance.
Centerstone is open during the COVID-19 crisis. It has 24 clinics across Middle Tennessee. More information is available at: Centerstone.org or a hotline: 888-291-4357.
Centerstone has crisis counselors and chat sessions available online. Members of the military and their families can reach out to the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Clarksville.
COPING WITH THE VIRUS
The impact on mental health during the coronavirus pandemic according to a national survey.
• 70 percent of Americans are worried about their physical health due to COVID-19
• 58 percent of Americans are concerned about their mental health because of social distancing
• Two-thirds of Americans report feeling anxious, yet only one in six (14%) households have accessed mental health care as a result of the pandemic
• Eight in ten report feeling the pandemic will have a negative impact on the mental health of Americans
Source: The Cohen Veterans Network