Ohio mental health department offers tips to help fight anxiety, provide treatment to patients during coronavirus crisis


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Feeling stressed about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak? The state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services has offered some tips to help battle those feelings.

Lori Criss, director of the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, outlined some signs and solutions for managing stress and anxiety during the outbreak.

“We’re all dealing with a new way of living that is temporary but is really impacting us in very personal ways,” Criss said.

Among the tips, Criss said it is important to get information about the virus from trusted resources such as the Ohio Department of Health website and the ODH hotline.

Second, Criss urged people to limit their exposure to the media. She said it is important to set aside time to get updated and be informed, but also urged people to plan time to step away and take care of themselves.

Third, she urged people to continue doing the things they enjoy to relieve stress, such as getting more sleep, watching movies, and outdoor activities.

“We need to make sure we stay healthy and well in our emotions, too,” Criss said.

Criss also urged people to pay attention to signs of anxiety in family and friends as well as themselves. If people find themselves worrying or having negative thoughts they can’t get rid of over a couple of days to reach out and talk to friends or professionals for support.

During Saturday’s press conference at the statehouse, Criss also outlined the state’s plan to continue servicing patients with mental health and addiction issues.

Earlier this week, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services discontinued in-person visitation in the state’s six psychiatric hospitals. However, Criss said that does not mean patients are being left out in the cold during the crisis.

“We’ve made every effort to ensure there is continued telephone contact between patients and their visitors and we’re making sure there is video visitation available as well,” she said.

Criss said there are plans in place to expand telehealth options for people struggling with mental health and addiction issues, which will allow for complete geographic coverage throughout the state. The plans would allow telehealth to be handled through telephone lines such as normal cell phones and apps like Facetime.

The plan would also eliminate the need for in-person visits for patients seeking treatment for the first time.

Criss said the department has already set up plans for patients to continue to receive the medications they need through treatment centers and their community partners.

“Their continued operation is essential to our state, it’s citizens, and to our commitment to supporting people affected by the opioid crisis,” she said.

Finally, Criss said facilities are getting guidance on how to manage their operations in order to reduce the risk of exposure for patients and staff members.

“It’s important to know that we want you to stay healthy and well and always to continue in your recovery,” she said.

“We’re concerned as we go through this, we’re concerned that people who have an addiction, we want to make sure that they continue to get the support and help that they need,” DeWine said. “We’re also concerned with people who have mental health problems and challenges that they have the help and support they need.”

The Ohio Department of Health announced Saturday 26 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, double the number announced Friday. The state announced its first case Monday.

In addition, 264 people across the state are now under investigation, which is up from 159 announced Friday.

A 49-year-old Columbus man who recently traveled aboard the Carnival Valor cruise ship is the first Franklin County victim of the virus, the city announced Saturday.

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