A Family Services therapist shares her concerns about mental wellness and the steps people can take to get help during the pandemic.
By Erika Ritchie
The COVID-19 Pandemic has added stress and uncertainty to all our lives. Students are home from school. Those who can are working from home. Others are coping with the loss of their job and paycheck, separation from family and friends, the cancellation of a much-needed vacation, or the delay of medical treatment. Doctors, nurses, and other essential workers are working harder than ever amid mounting shortages and increasingly high stakes.
Any single one of these things could negatively impact a person’s mental health. I spoke with Vikki Coppens, a therapist from Family Services Counseling Clinic, to find out how the outbreak is impacting people in our communities and what steps to take if you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed.
Q: What kind of impact do you see this outbreak having on people’s mental health?
Vikki: I believe that the outbreak will have a significant impact on both the mentally stable as well as individuals who struggle with mental health challenges. As new mandates are put into place, anxiety and fear of the unknown will increase and without proper supports in place, anyone is at risk. If people already experience mental health challenges, my greatest concern is that their mental wellness and quite possibly their physical wellness will deteriorate.
Q: What are you hearing from those already suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues?
Vikki: As mental health facilities take greater precautions, people are not necessarily getting their mental health needs met. Some agencies are closed and are no longer providing therapy. Family Services Counseling Clinic is engaging in telehealth, a confidential video session to meet the needs as best as we can. Many of our clients are open to telehealth, because for some, their therapist may be the only support that they have at this time.
Q: Can you share any tips or coping strategies to help people manage their stress and anxiety during these uncertain times?
Vikki: I would recommend taking a break from the news and social media. It’s ok to want to be informed, but try to limit the amount of time that you spend watching the news. Also, get your information from a reliable source such as the CDC. If you are on medication, take them as prescribed. Pick up the phone and talk to someone, or try using Skype or FaceTime. If you do not have a supportive person in your life, reach out to the Crisis Center. Take care of yourself. Make sure that you are taking care of your body, eat, especially food that is healthy, and rest when you can. If you can’t sleep at night because of worry, take a nap. Take a walk, it’s amazing what movement and nature can do for our mental wellness.
Q: More and more people are under self-quarantine and fully isolated from others. What are your concerns for those individuals?
Vikki: My greatest concern regarding complete social isolation is the potential for that individual to become completely hopeless. Uncertainty without support can induce and inflate mental health symptoms related to depression and anxiety. I fear suicide rates could increase. I would encourage anyone who is experiencing these feelings to call the Crisis Center.
Q: How do you recommend people cope with the losses they may be faced with right now – whether it be the loss of a job, the loss of vacation they were looking forward to, or other major life plans?
Vikki: Although it may be difficult, try to stay as positive as you can. Stress can lower our immune systems and at this time you need to stay healthy. Plan for the future. This too shall pass and when it does you want to be prepared.
Q: If someone is experiencing a mental or emotional crisis, what can they do? Where should they turn for help?
Vikki: Contact your therapist if they haven’t contacted you. Family Services is engaging in telehealth services and the Crisis Center phone lines are still available 24 hours a day. Make yourself a list of supports, including important phone numbers such as non-emergency police, a suicide hotline, and supportive family and friends.
If you live in Brown County and are experiencing a mental or emotional crisis, please call the Crisis Center at (920) 436-8888 for immediate help 24/7. Or, to find the Crisis Center hotline for your area, please visit our Crisis Center page.