COLUMBUS (WCMH)– Ohio leaders issued a new challenge to help everyone cope with the stress, anxiety, and the loneliness many people are experiencing during the COVID-19 health crisis. Their solution: more human connection.

During his Monday press conference, Governor Mike DeWine announced the “Strive for Five” initiative. The idea is borrowed from the New York Coalition for Behavioral Health and led by Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services Board of Lorain County.

“Strive for Five” simply encourages Ohioans to reach out to five people daily for 30 days.

“With physical distancing, people can feel isolated. And if that isolation turns into loneliness it can have some devastating effects on mental and physical health,” said Lori Criss, OhioMHAS director.

Some say the extra time they are experiencing during the stay at home order has made them more inclined to reconnect with family and friends.

“In some ways it’s weird that we’re not seeing people in person, but I think that I’ve talked to more people than I would have if this was just normal going to work and being in the daily grind,” said Jason Moore.

Outdoor walks have become part of a daily routine to battle restlessness for Moore and his daughters Lila and Tula. The family has been getting creative to stay in touch with other loved ones.

“We actually have come here in the morning and done a video stream while walking in the woods with their grandparents because they can’t get out of the house,” Moore said.

Criss explained many people already struggling with mental health or addiction disorders have a more difficult time staying connected. She hopes family and friends will pay special attention to the needs of those at-risk individuals.

“It’s not so much what you say or how you say it,” Criss said. “Don’t worry if you’re shy or not great with words. The important thing is to just reach out and genuinely be interested in someone.”

She urges loved ones to watch for the warning signs of a mental health crisis. If someone appears to be disinterested in connecting or expresses troubling thoughts or actions, reach out to a professional.

Mental health help lines:

  • Ohio Crisis Text Line: Text keyword “4HOPE” to 741 741
  • OhioMHAS Help Line: 1-877-275-6364
  • Disaster Distress Help Line: 1-800-985-5990 or Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 (Spanish-speakers: Text “Hablanos” to 66746)
  • Find mental health treatment or addiction services:

You can post your daily connections and follow along with the “Strive for Five” Challenge by using the hashtag #OHStrive5.