Many people are experiencing mental health concerns as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantine. Stressors related to this pandemic is causing the onset and exacerbation of mental health symptoms such as anxiety, depression, substance and alcohol related abuse, and suicidal thoughts. To support one another, it is important for us to check-in with family, co-workers, and friends to detect signs of psychological distress.
Research predicts a large number of people will experience a decline in mental health due to job losses, financial uncertainty, education concerns, and risk of infection from one person to another, frontline workers in particular. Some 35% of Americans say their mental health has worsened over the past week, an increase over 22% a week earlier, according to recent findings from Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index. Forty-three percent said their emotional well-being had gotten worse compared to 29% a week earlier.
Katherine Ponte, author of Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies states, “the coronavirus can significantly affect mental health for everyone, but especially for those with mental illness. Both the anxiety of contracting the disease as well as the increase in loneliness and isolation can worsen and trigger symptoms. Acknowledging, recognizing and acting on mental distress in these uncertain times is key to lessening the impact”
A mental health check-in is beneficial to determine if someone you care about is experiencing depression, insomnia, anxiety/ or thoughts of harming themselves or others. It is also advised to do regular check ins with yourself. A self-check-in can be done by taking time to assess how you are feeling. Meditation and journaling are proven methods for stress-reduction.
While checking on the well-being of others, be sure to take care of your own mental and physical needs. The CDC recommend the following tips:
- Limit news consumption – take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try a new hobby or some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
Encourage open communication about COVID 19 in your household or workplace and how it is affecting each person individually. Discussing concerns together will build a sense of community, support, and understanding. Here are a few questions you can ask when doing a mental check in. A mental health check-in poster may be used for children (incorporate sticky notes and markers) to prompt expression of difficult emotions.
Check In Questions
- How are you feeling overall?
- How are you coping?
- What is your stress level? (ask for a range from mild to severe)
- Are you feeling angry, sad, frustrated, or hopeless?
- Are you having trouble sleeping or loss of appetite?
- Are you are having difficulty concentrating or doing activities you enjoy?
- Crying often, feeling overwhelmed, or unable to function normally?
- Are you having unusual bad thoughts?
- Are your thoughts racing?
- Do you feel out of control?
- Can I support you? (offer prayer, time to talk, or a help resource)
For more information on coping straetgies and how to identify mental distress in children and adults, visit the CDC website. If you or a loved one are in crisis, call at healthcare provider if symptoms appear for several days, 911, or Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental Health and Coping during COVID 19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html
Ponte, Katherine. Coronavirus: Mental Health Coping Strategies. NAMI. March 20, 2020 https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/March-2020/Coronavirus-Mental-Health-Coping-Strategies