INTERNATIONAL: Coronavirus: How to Protect Your Mental Health
The unprecedented amount of uncertainty due to coronavirus and the constant news about it are taxing people’s mental health, especially those with anxiety disorders. Common to many anxiety disorders is a fear of being out of control and difficulty coping with uncertainty. “A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen–coronavirus is that on a macro scale,” says Rosie Weatherley, spokesperson for the mental health charity Mind. A number of strategies can help people with these disorders, as well as anyone struggling with anxiety and stress related to coronavirus. These include limiting the amount and type of news you take in; taking time away from social media; staying connected with other people by phone, text, and email; spending time in nature; and getting exercise. It can also help to keep your mind in the present moment, breathe deeply, and try to let worried thoughts pass instead of attaching and reacting to them.
The social distancing needed to address the coronavirus pandemic does not come naturally to human beings. “The coronavirus . . . is calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionarily hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other,” says Nicholas Christakis, a social scientist and physician at Yale University. Isolation can increase the risk for health problems such as depression and heart disease, and social contact can lessen the negative impact of stress. Older adults tend to be more vulnerable due to factors such as loss of family and friends and chronic illness. Phone, texting, email, and apps like Skype can help people stay in contact, but they don’t fully take the place of in-person connection. Nevertheless, using these technologies is still very valuable, including to check on how other people are doing and offer support. According to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a Brigham Young University research psychologist, providing support can be even more helpful than receiving it and can enable us to feel more connected.
Most people in a mental health- or drug-related crisis, who are picked up by law enforcement for a misdemeanor, are taken straight to a hospital emergency department (ED). They are often confined involuntarily for hours or days. Some are jailed with no access to mental health professionals or medications. But now, using a model developed in Arizona, a number of states are encouraging police to drop people off at crisis centers instead, where they can get the care they need much more quickly. The crisis facilities offer a guaranteed wait of no more than 10 minutes and accept everyone regardless of insurance coverage or condition. They are linked electronically with the suicide hotlines and mobile crisis units, and work collaboratively with first responders. To implement these changes, policymakers have amended laws, state health care agencies have changed regulations, and crisis providers have adapted their services.
Resources to Support Mental Health and Coping with the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
SPRC has compiled a selection of web pages and information sheets on mental health and coping with the effects of COVID-19:
- Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Managing Anxiety and Stress – This web page contains basic guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on managing mental health stressors during COVID-19.
- Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health: Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine, and Isolation during an Infectious Disease Outbreak – This tip sheet from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information on typical reactions to social distancing, quarantine, and isolation, and ways to take care of oneself. The sheet also provides a list of hotlines and other resources for obtaining help.
- Mental Health Considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak – This information sheet from the World Health Organization (WHO) contains suggestions for coping with COVID-19 for the general population and specific groups including health care workers, caretakers of children and older adults, and people living in isolation.
- Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty – This blog post from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) provides five suggestions for coping with the uncertainty due to COVID-19.
- Coronavirus Anxiety: Helpful Expert Tips and Resources – This web page, updated daily by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), contains links to a wide variety of resources for coping with general anxiety and some specific anxiety disorders during COVID-19, including articles, information sheets, blog posts, and videos.
- Talking with Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers during Infectious Disease Outbreaks – This tip sheet from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides caregivers, parents, and teachers with information on reactions children and youth may have during an infectious disease outbreak and how to support them. Some of the information is tailored for different age groups.
- Helping Children Cope Emotionally with the Coronavirus – This web page from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress (AAETS) provides parents with specific suggestions for helping children cope with COVID-19.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center at EDC is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), under Grant No. 5U79SM062297. The views, opinions, and content expressed in this product do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of CMHS, SAMHSA, or HHS.