Fear, uncertainty, anger, sadness, and loneliness – these emotions are common as our community and country reacts to the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t let stigma prevent you from reaching out for help.
“The barrier to seek help is a lot lower because everyone is going through the same experience,” Ken Houseknecht, executive director, Mental Health Advocates of WNY, said. “Who isn’t experiencing anxiety and depression?”
According to Houseknecht, many more people have joined the conversation about mental health and are sharing their personal challenges. He notes a positive outcome of the crisis may be people more willing to say they are struggling. The current environment is affecting individuals who are already dealing with depression and anxiety and those who are perhaps experiencing the issues for the first time.
“If you need help, get help,” Houseknecht said. “While this has always been true, it is especially important now when normal supports are gone.”
According to Houseknecht, the mental health community has risen to this challenge by adapting how they deliver services. They are using technology to maintain continuity and people can access virtual counseling, support groups and 12-step programs.”
He notes that social media and technology have become lifelines for many people as they seek creative ways to interact with each other.
Lisa Prefontaine, M.S., LMHC shares that being forced to slow down is foreign to us and causes great disruption, but she suggests focusing on basics of eating, sleeping, exercise and taking breaks from news and social media.
“As we are quarantined, it’s important to prioritize our mental health,” Prefontaine said. “People who haven’t had depression and anxiety may develop these issues and people who have diagnosed depression and anxiety need to stay proactive and keep taking medication.”
She offers a three-prong approach to work through the uncertainty.
“First, acknowledge that you are going to have worry, give yourself permission to be distracted and finally, find a counselor, perhaps online, someone who can work with you remotely,” Prefontaine said.
Many agencies have extensive and helpful resource guides on their websites and crisis hotlines are in place to assist those in crisis.
- Crisis Services’ 24-Hour Hotline at 716-834-3131
- 24-Hour Addiction Hotline 716-831-7007
- Mental Health Advocates of WNY Community Resource Guide
Mental Health Support and Resources:
- Coping with Disaster or Traumatic Event
- Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19
- Coping with Stress During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
- Talking with your children about COVID-19
“Powerlessness and loss of control is not easy, but there are still positive things to focus our attention on,” Houseknecht said. “Consider reaching out to someone who is living alone, unemployed, sick, struggling with mental health or substance abuse.”