Mental Health Month, More Important Than Ever During COVID-19 Pandemic
Friday, May 01, 2020
Could Mental Health Month be any more needed than now? The national observance kicked off May 1 as the COVID-19 pandemic not only continued to claim lives, but to wreak havoc on people’s mental health: it’s spreading feelings of anxiety and fear and depression. Not surprisingly, respondents to recent surveys have reported declining mental health since the pandemic hit.
It is crucial for individuals take steps daily to build their resiliency, reduce stress and anxiety, and support others who are struggling. That’s the goal behind Mental Health Month’s 2020 theme, #Tools2Thrive.
NewBridge Services, a nonprofit that has provided mental health support in northern New Jersey for 57 years, has created and continues to build a repository of information and advice on calming techniques and mental health resources.
“Our goal is to help people find balance in the midst of the imbalance,” NewBridge CEO Michelle Borden said. The pandemic’s impact can be especially hard on individuals who live with mental illness. One in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year, and the rate is 1 in 6 for children, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
For individuals who need support, NewBridge’s licensed clinicians are conducting telehealth counseling sessions; call (973) 316-9333 to schedule an appointment. (NewBridge accepts most insurances.)
Steps to Ease Anxiety and Worry During Mental Health Month
- Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Try to get outside, even briefly.
- Make time to unwind: take a bath, read or listen to a book, work on crafts, go for a walk, or watch a funny television show or movie.
- Exercise. There are lots of trainer-led workouts available for free on YouTube.
- Keep in touch with family and friends by phone or video chatting.
- Look for volunteer opportunities you can do through smartphone apps, online, or by phone. Click here for ideas.
- Take deep breaths, stretch and/or meditate. Check NewBridge’s resource page for step-by-step guidance on various techniques.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
Mental illnesses can affect thinking, mood and behavior. They include: anxiety disorders like phobias; mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder; behavioral disorders like ADHD; personality disorders, psychotic disorders like schizophrenia; and trauma- and stress-related disorders.
The severity of mental illness can be reduced through early intervention. Warning signs of mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, include:
- Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
- Increased worry or feeling stressed
- A need for alcohol or drugs
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
- Engaging in high-risk activities
- Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain
- Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
- Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people
Mental Health America offers free online mental health screening tools to help people determine if they have symptoms of mental illness.
Preventing Suicide: Five Action Steps
If you suspect someone is having suicidal thoughts, talk to them. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends these five action steps:
- Ask. While it may feel awkward, ask, ‘Are you thinking about killing yourself?’
- Keep them safe. Keep them away from lethal items and places.
- Be there. Ask questions and listen to what they are thinking and feeling.
- Help them connect. Make sure they get in touch with a mental health professional or someone very close to them.
- Stay Connected. Follow up with the individual afterward because that can reduce the risk of a subsequent crisis.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–TALK (8255), or New Jersey’s round-the-clock suicide prevention hotline at NJ HOPELINE, 1-855-654-6735. Crisis chat is accessible through the website.