Checking in on your mental health during month 4 of COVID-19

Last week, I had a sore throat. And, in this world of COVID-19, this mild sore throat lead to a 24-hour anxiety attack.

I started sweating – which, of course, I thought meant I was dying – and I started taking my temperature over and over throughout the day, expecting to see a result of 100 degrees or higher (in reality, my temperature was a steady 97.4). Later, I found out that the sore throat was from acid reflux – not from the coronavirus.

There was a short time when we thought things were getting better as businesses began to reopen. But then, it was as if the coronavirus was announcing, “Psych! I’m still here!” It’s still surreal to think we’re on our fourth month of this. For me, that’s been four months of not seeing my co-workers or most of my friends, and, most difficult of all, four months of not seeing my parents (except for just a few minutes where they stood on my porch with their masks on to surprise me with a ham for Easter or presents and cake for my birthday). During my workday now, it has become a habit to scream into my empty house at least once a day. And sometimes, that’s the only time I actually use my voice in an eight-hour stretch.

Especially for those of us already struggling with a mental illness, the social isolation and the coronavirus related fear have most definitely affected our mental health. Frontline workers, COVID-19 patients and people who have lost a loved one to the virus are at a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. If other outbreaks like SARS have been any indication, the mental health effects from COVID-19 are expected to endure even after this pandemic is over.

Fifty-six percent of American adults report that the COVID-19 crisis is harming their mental health, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and a national crisis mental health hotline reported receiving a nearly 1,000 percent spike in calls compared to this time last year.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, “The pandemic has made mental health a concern for everyone and also highlighted the important link between research, discovery and cure.” Harvard alum Jamie Anderson told the publication that he predicts there will be a couple silver linings to come out of COVID-19 – “The first is that mental health will be prioritized in the same way as physical health; the second is that the care advancements we’ve made through innovation and technology will be permanent and we can continue to scale them to help (people) regardless of where they live.”

The local organization Six Feet Over is partnering with the Crisis Text Line to help those anxious about the coronavirus. To reach crisis counselors, text SIS to 741741. If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t hesitate in seeking professional help. Check with your health insurance provider to see if they’re waiving co-pays for telehealth services for medical and behavioral health during the pandemic.

While it’s important to protect your physical health – continuing to wear a face covering while in public spaces, washing your hands, maintaining a six-foot distance, and limiting social gatherings – remember, it’s just as important to take care of your mental health. These are not normal times; we are continuing to experience a collective trauma. No matter how you’re spending this time or how you’re feeling, it’s okay and you’re not alone.

This column is set to be featured in the free Community Lifestyles paper during the weekend of July 18 in Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Lake Orion, Auburn Hills, Oxford, Washington Township, Romeo and Bruce Township.

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