For all of the uncertainty around the coronavirus pandemic and the panic that has ensued as a result, there is at least one constant – those who are suffering for mental health issues still require treatment. If anything, they may require more treatment due to the barrage of negative news coming from every corner of our lives. Even before this crisis, mental health was a serious societal concern. Not only do we still attach significant stigma to mental health issues, but appropriate treatment has been hard to come by for the vast majority of Americans. The result? During times of significant upheaval such as these, mental health concerns may take a backseat to what many consider to be a more important problem. But while the spread of the coronavirus is at the top of everyone’s minds, mental illness is a continuing crisis that has been unfolding in front of our eyes. Prevention of a virus’ spread, and treatment of mental illnesses are not mutually exclusive. For those wondering what the next step might be, here are a few thoughts from all of us here at the Mental Health Center
Insurance Will Still Pay for Mental Health Treatment
Many of us are scared and concerned about the financial consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. However, those with an insurance plan that covers mental health treatment should be able to receive appropriate care. While wait times on the phone may be very long, verifying your benefits is the first step. You can also rely on the staff at a mental health treatment center, such as ours
, to help verify your benefits and ensure you understand coverages. For those with insufficient insurance coverage or no coverage at all, there are self-pay options
as well as low-cost or free programs throughout the community.
Mental Health Facilities Are Trained for Infection Control
While it may be tempting to believe that going to a mental health facility increases your risk of catching coronavirus or another infection, this is not necessarily the case. Treatment centers, such as ours
, train each of our employees in the important facets of infection control. Remember that those with mental health problems often have cooccurring substance abuse disorders and effective infection control has been a cornerstone of treatment from the day we opened our doors. For our part, we have modified our already stringent infection control procedures to ensure that coronavirus does not affect our facilities, clients or employees. You can read more about our COVID-19 response policy here
Delaying Mental Health May Cause Worsening of Symptoms, Even Death
Any delay to treating mental health issues, no matter how mild or severe, can lead to worsening of symptoms. Those with mental health issues are also at higher risk of death due to substance abuse as well as suicide. While times such as these make us want to crawl in bed and hide, the opposite is often the best course of action - talking about our problems and getting appropriate help. Indeed, it is the delay of appropriate care, usually for many years, that is often cited as one of the reasons why the crisis has been exacerbated in the United States.
Distance and Telehealth Options May Be Available
Unfortunately, many Americans do not have access to appropriate facilities that can effectively treat severe mental illness or co-occurring disorders. For these clients, distance or telehealth options may be available and should be taken advantage of. Some facilities, such as ours, accept patients from other states. There may also be regional resources for virtual visits. Most importantly is to begin the process toward healing. Studies have shown that longer delays to receiving appropriate care result in poorer outcomes. While the coronavirus outbreak may only last for a few more weeks or months, the stresses associated with these uncertain times can worsen and amplify mental illness, making prompt treatment even more important.
So…How can you take personal steps to combat depression during this pandemic?
Avoid the Constant Barrage of Negative News Coverage
Unfortunately, the panic associated with this virus outbreak has created a level of societal anxiety
that we likely haven’t seen in our lifetimes. People are glued to the television or Internet looking up information about the virus and vaccine.
If we follow CDC recommendations on infection control and make sure we heed our local laws on going out and about, there’s nothing much more we can do. Therefore, obsessing over the headlines only serves to increase the risk of anxiety and ultimately depression. Every outbreak that humanity has dealt with in the past has eventually subsided. We must take precautions and follow direction from our medical professionals, certainly, but we cannot obsess.
Understand the Current Situation and Talk It Through
While we just suggested that you avoid the constant negative news coverage about the pandemic, this is not to say that you should pretend like it doesn’t exist. In fact, acknowledging its existence and talking about it can be effective to the point of therapeutic. Even if you believe that your feelings or emotions may be silly or irrational, trust us when we say that others are thinking the same or similar things. Talking to others is an incredibly important part of getting through this.
Think About Your Physical Health
During times of extreme stress, it is very easy to let our physical health go by the wayside. We often liberalize our diet and exercise regimens thinking that we will get back on the wagon after the crisis is over. However, during this time of uncertainty, we can do quite a bit of damage to our bodies with poor food choices and a sedentary lifestyle. For one, eating well allows the body to function more efficiently which has proven benefits to the mind. Exercising releases endorphins that ward off depression. Malnutrition can also lead to vitamin deficiencies that can create a chemical imbalance, ultimately leading to depression. Make sure you prioritize eating well, exercising appropriately and sleeping at least 7-8 hours a night to reduce your risk. And remember, stress causes the immune system to weaken which can, in turn increase the risk of contracting any infection, including the coronavirus.
Do Something or Share Something Positive
Doing a good deed or helping someone in need actually creates a chemical reaction in the brain that can improve mood and lower the risk of depression. Similarly sharing or creating something fun, interesting or good no matter how small or unimportant can create that same feeling. Thinking positively and sharing that with other people is a great way to push out negative, anxious and depressive feelings.
Remember That Social Distancing Is a Misnomer
While social distancing is the term most used for keeping away from large gatherings and other people that might be infected by the virus, it really is not the best phrase to use. We prefer to use the term physical distancing
because ultimately all of us need social connectivity in some form. Luckily, we live in a society where being social does not require face-to-face, close contact. We have social media platforms, smart phones and video conferencing that all bring us closer to friends and family that may be dozens, hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Use these technologies and tools effectively to make sure you stay connected to the outside world and those that you love.
The Bottom Line
We know that you’re not a robot and we do not advocate for denying the existence of a very real crisis. We know that this is a stressful time. But you do have a choice in how you manage that stress and where you direct your energy. If you decide to succumb to the constant stream of bad news and panic, you will increase the risk of severe mental illness including depression. On the other hand, if you keep a positive attitude and share that positive with others, you’ll not only improve your own mental health, but that of those around you as well.
Take time to step back and allow yourself to cope with the realities of the pandemic, find effective mental health treatment, and create a routine that facilitates a positive mindset and healthy habits. This, too, will pass.
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