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Mental Health Part 2/ Salud Mental Parte 2 - COVID19 statement

Mental Health Pt II

Resource Information can be located at the bottom of this article. 
Yesterday, we covered a bit on mental health during this stay-at-home COVID-19 situation.  We touched on media-induced anxiety, some general information on why everything is so stressful, and some strategies for handling childhood stress during this time.  
Today, we will discuss adult concerns and how to recognize when a family member or even ourselves, may be experiencing isolation-induced stress, substance abuse, and some strategies for regaining our sense of normalcy in a highly abnormal situation.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), those most at risk for mental health challenges during this crisis include:
• Seniors and those with compromised immune systems (at higher risk)
• Children & teens (who don’t understand the threat)
• First Responders & Medical Personnel (secondary trauma stress – STS)
• Those with existing mental health conditions
• People with substance abuse issues (unable to get drugs easily)

Jennie Kuckertz, a clinical fellow in psychology at Harvard Medical School says, “It’s hard right now when people feel isolated and their routines are very off.  Loneliness — which is natural, for a lot of people right now — can, combined with an irregular routine, slip into depression.”  She further states, “Being at home may be particularly challenging if your living situation has suddenly become crowded with multiple household members staying home, between work, school, and college closures.  If you have lots of people in a crowded space for a long time, it not only increases anxiety but also irritability.”  She recommends people take a moment to go outside — while following the guidelines from state and public health officials of keeping 6-feet away from other people — to ride your bike or take a walk to get fresh air and needed space.  “Uncertainty is extremely hard for people to cope with and it can lead us to feel desperate to do things that gives us a greater sense of control — or we can become very depressed, feeling hopeless.”

Some Common Stress Symptoms 
• Anxiety: fear & worry dominates thoughts
• Sleeplessness
• Appetite disruption – too much or too little
• Uncharacteristic mood swings 
• Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other substances
• Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, skin rashes, etc.
• An increase in chronic condition symptoms

Some Stress Relievers 
• Take a break away from news and social media, as continual bombardment about the virus can cause increased distress.  Also, remember that children may misinterpret what they hear, and can be frightened about something they do not understand, so family discussions are critical.
• Silence on the issue does not protect them, but rather, causes young imaginations to go wild and generally are much more frightening than the circumstances warrant 
• Take care of your body; exercise, eat balanced meals, get plenty of sleep, avoid alcohol & drugs
• Unwind with activities you enjoy 
• Consider specific relaxation strategies: meditation may not seem like your thing, but all it is, is directed relaxation, calming the body and mind.  
• Purposeful stretching helps to relieve stress.  Yoga, Tai Chi, Dance, and other directed forms of sustained movement, may provide a good structure for whole-body relaxation.  
• Accept the fact that staying, for an extended period of time, within a contained space, even with those you love, is stressful.  It has nothing to do with how much you love those around you.  Even ice cream sundaes would get on your nerves if you had them at every meal.   
• Take turns with other family members in getting a break from the kids
• Maintain your social and family connections.  Try out all of those video chat/conferencing apps.  Actually seeing someone while speaking, makes connecting much more personal.  
• If you are diagnosed as positive, you may not experience symptoms but because you are still contagious, you will be placed in quarantine.  That isolation can produce added stress as family and friends are not allowed to be with you for comfort.  Think about what you might do if you had 14-days just to yourself… it’s not sounding too bad, is it?  
Allow yourself time to grieve loss.  Whether it is your routine, social gatherings, business dealings, financial income, ability to travel… whatever it is that upsets you most about the current situation.  That sense of loss is real, and the resulting sadness is absolutely natural.  By releasing those emotions, you reduce the likelihood of it generating further emotional issues or overreacting to unrelated events.  
Try not to become overly stressed at every sneeze or cough, as we are entering allergy season, which exhibits many of the same symptoms as the virus.  Not every cough is the virus.  
And, out of boredom, or from an existing or previous history of abuse of drugs (legal or illegal), here are some things to consider.  We are all feeling a desire to escape from the current stress of our situation and the uncertainty of its future on both our health and our personal finances.
With so much added time on our hands, and after having depleted our Favorites List on Netflix, we might just decide on having a quick drink or a little MJ to pass the time; after all, as they say, it’s Happy Hour somewhere.  Next thing you know, Happy Hour is beginning at lunchtime and extending until the late-night comedy shows.  Folks, that’s a problem.  And, if there is a background of current abuse, it can create a physical state where not only will you reduce your immunity levels to fight off any virus, but you may find yourself in dire need of a substance, and an inability to get it, which can create numerous other issues, including dangerous withdrawal symptoms.  
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) states, “When people experience some sort of disaster, they may exhibit a variety of reactions, many of which are natural responses to difficult situations.  Most people show resilience after a disaster – resilience is the ability to bounce back, cope with adversity, and endure during difficult situations.  It is also common for people to show signs of stress, sometime after exposure to a disaster, making it important to monitor the physical and emotional health of those affected, as well as those responding to the needs of others.” 
 
In a disaster/emergency event, it's essential that behavioral health responders have the resources they need—when and where they need them.  The free SAMHSA Disaster App offers first-responders immediate access for any type of traumatic event, at every phase of response, including pre-deployment preparation, on-the-ground assistance, and post-deployment resources.  Here is the link.  https://store.samhsa.gov/product/samhsas-disaster-kit/sma11-disaster 
In this time of changing norms, let consider changing some of our not-so-great habits.  With family support in-house, it may be a unique time to gather together and help one another through some of the challenges we all face but didn’t previously have the time to address.  
Together, we can get through anything.  We are here for you!  

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (a comprehensive list of services and financial aid options)
https://www.eaglevalleybh.org/get-help-now/covid-19-resources  
Some resources from EVBH include:
• The Eagle Hope Center: Available 24/7 for those experiencing suicidal thoughts or extreme emotional distress.  There are also Clinicians who will be providing services to their high-risk students remotely.  Call (970) 306-4673
• Telehealth Therapists can be found at https://www.eaglevalleybh.org/find-a-therapist  
• CU Dept of Psychiatry – COVID-19 Support Resources https://medschool.cuanschutz.edu/psychiatry/covid-19-support
• University of Denver Graduate School of Psychology 
COVID-19 Resources: https://spark.adobe.com/page/ONJeUkiXCJhss
• “MyStrength” is an app available on your computer or smartphone that provides behavioral health support.  Click on the link and use passwords WellnessEagle or WellnessVail to sign up.

Financial Assistance for Mental Health
• Swift Eagle Charitable Fund: grants for personal and living expenses to people in crisis or hardship situations.  https://www.swifteagle.org/grant-requests  
• Eagle County Economic Services: provides income, nutrition and support services to those in need through federal, state and county funded programs.  https://www.eaglecounty.us/economicservices 
• Vail Valley Salvation Army: Emergency financial assistance and food pantry call 970-748-0704 
• Catholic Charities: Offers basic necessities such as food and life-saving medication but also assistance with transportation, and eviction prevention.  Call 970-949-0405
• Vail Valley Charitable Fund: Provides financial assistance for medical crisis or long-term illness. http://vvcf.org/apply-for-aid  
• Eagle Valley Family Assistance Fund: financial assistance, not otherwise available, for low-to-moderate income families in Eagle County.  http://www.evfaf.net/home.html 
• Eagle County Veterans Services: veteran-specific assistance in the areas of housing (if homeless), rent, health care and resources for food and childcare costs.  Call 970-328-9674
We are working on the Spanish translation of this post. Once it is available this post will be updated.