COLUMBUS (WCMH) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when even if we weren’t in a pandemic, we would all be focusing on bettering our state of mind.
Of course, right now, a healthy mindset is more important than ever as we all try to navigate the isolation of the coronavirus crisis.
“It can be very challenging. Any time people are faced with uncertainty, they become anxious,” explained Dr. Delaney Smith, the medical director of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board (ADAMH) of Franklin County. “That’s just sort of a natural human reaction.”
Uncertainty has been one of the biggest challenges during this pandemic. Americans have felt it with regards to employment, finances, and the coronavirus itself. Combine all of that with “Stay At Home” orders increasing isolation, and it’s a perfect storm for mental struggles.
“It’s true for folks who have a history of mental illness, they may be feeling more anxiety, more sadness, symptoms of their illness, but also people who have never experienced mental health issues before in their life and for the first time may be having these feelings and not quite even knowing what it is or recognizing it,” said Smith. “It’s so important that people really look at ourselves as a whole picture of health. So our physical health is important, but also our mental health. And we know that from research that if our mental health is impaired, if we are feeling more stressed, depressed, anxious, that impacts our body’s ability to fight off infection.”
For health professionals, the concern for Americans’ mental stability was already something on their radar. Smith said that in the months leading up to the coronavirus crisis, officials saw an increased rate of suicides both locally and nationally.
“Sometimes people are afraid to bring it up – they are worried they’ll put that thought into someone’s head, but really, you know you want to have that open dialogue, that non-judgmental ability for people to talk to you and let you know that they’re struggling,” said Smith. “It’s a very multifactor situation. When someone gets to that point, it involves their underlying biology, and their psychological stress and also sort of what’s going on around them. So there’s always this big picture of what’s going on, but we don’t want to lose focus of that concern and also, for some people, the increased financial stress and anxiety, that might increase those thoughts of hurting themselves.”
As COVID-19 has spread and completely changed people’s daily lives, mental health resources have ramped up considerably, especially with regards to telehealth, and Dr. Smith hopes the people continue to use that resource, as for some it’s actually a more comfortable scenario.
“There’s some people you know they really enjoy having that ability to connect while maybe staying in the comfort of their home at least initially,” Smith explained. “We want people to know that that help is there and it’s absolutely people recover from mental illness and you know there is that bright light at the end of the tunnel where people are going to get better, they are going to get healthy again, things are going to look better for the state and the country, you know, we don’t want people to get lost in the dark thoughts that people can get.”
Smith said there are some red flags with regards to someone who may be contemplating hurting themselves: if the person isn’t interested in things they might have been before; if they’re feeling hopeless; if they’re feeling like nothing matters; or, if they’ve started to make plans towards something they might do to hurt themselves.
If you are having these thoughts or feelings, or know someone who has expressed these emotions, here are resources that can help.
Franklin County Suicide Prevention Hotline:
614.221.5445 (call or text)
*Text Line available Monday – Friday noon to 10 pm
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Netcare Crisis Hotline (available for COVID related stress, directing people to resources and crisis services)
Alcohol, Drug, and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County website: https://adamhfranklin.org/