3 minutes reading time (595 words)

Preparing for the Mental Health Crisis: Following COVID-19

mental-health-covid

By: Kimberly Hill, MSW, LCSW Clinician, The PATH at Carteret Middle School

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, "nearly one in five U.S adults live with a mental illness." Over the years, the numbers have not declined, and mental health professionals have discovered that more than 10 million adults have an unmet need for mental health treatment. This includes the youth who are currently suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Since COVID-19 came to light, mental health symptoms of clients involved in treatment have been emerging from mild cases to moderate or severe cases.

These symptoms have been reported to be an increase of stress, difficulty managing anger, and increased headaches and stomachaches. Those who are answering calls for crisis and suicide hotlines have brought attention to the first wave of distress which include fear of further isolation, employment issues and relationship struggles. The current concern in the mental health community revolves around the pandemic occurring "during a time when people already struggled to get mental health care…" Fortunately, those who receive treatment services can be monitored and clinically supported, but there are many who are unsure of how to get help if this is the first time they are experiencing the symptoms above. As the mental health community and professionals begin to tackle the needs of our clients and provide resources virtually, you might be wondering: what does this mean moving forward to further assist our clients?

Telehealth medicine has been identified as a way to assist treating individuals now and in the future. Staying connected to a professional during this time is key for our clients and with connection comes the need for easy access. It is advised that professionals seek additional training in grief and trauma to continue to build competence and knowledge of up-to-date information in order to provide appropriate care. The knowledge that can be obtained includes nearby resources for families as well as virtual support groups. Being creative regarding how to interact in your sessions will be helpful, as every client has their own needs and a one-size-fits-all approach may not work. This is especially true with adolescents who will require more creativity and engagement to trust this process. Advocates are pushing for an increase in mental health services in schools, once re-opened, as well as affordable services for adults. During this pandemic, worries of payment and location of services continue to grow for our clients, so you can find many resources online to further assist during this time. Awareness of these services could potentially bring in clients who are struggling to find support, which can continue to encourage professionals to remain on task of how to help.

While the mental health professional community moves forward to find common ground, don't forget to check in with yourselves as well! As many of you know, it's difficult to work with clients when you have not had the opportunity to get your own feelings or issues regulated. With that being said, here are some tips to help you and/or help your client when discussing COVID-19 pandemic-related issues.

  • Keep a regular schedule: Maintain a routine including a designated space
  • Connect with loved ones: Keep open communication with support systems using video chat options if feasible
  • Maintain your hygiene: Follow CDC recommendations to avoid spreading germs
  • Stay informed: It's important to stay updated on recent events, but limit your media time to avoid further stress and anxiety
  • Get lots of fresh air: Although we are avoiding crowds, some fresh air and staying active, whether that's inside or outside, can increase endorphins
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