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World Social Isolation Is Impacting Mental Health Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Rochester, NY… Four months into the Covid-19 pandemic and our nation is on the verge of another health crisis, a mental-health one. Tens of thousands of people dead, millions facing economic devastation, and continued isolation from the lockdown are taking a psychological toll on Americans. Behavioral health officials are now focused on a second wave of the coronavirus lockdown this fall that could pose grave risks to the nation’s mental health.

“COVID-19 has altered daily existence dramatically and it is a really hard time for everybody, but it is especially hard for people with preexisting behavioral health conditions and substance addictions,” said Kelly Murrell, Director of the Mental Health Clinic at Catholic Family Center. “The biggest issues for many are the uncertainly of the future and the lack of control people feel over what is going to happen next.”

This period of unprecedented uncertainty coupled with social distancing guidelines are leaving people feeling alone. Many who are struggling emotionally aren’t seeking help due to the concern of potentially being exposed to the virus. Children aren’t able to easily talk to teachers to report problems at home, and abuse victims are often unable to call for help because they have been stuck in the same home as their abusers.

“Here at Catholic Family Center, we are seeing a 50% reduction in client intakes, so we know the people who are suffering are not getting the help they need and that is a major concern,” said Kristie Elias, LCSW, Vice President of Behavioral Health at Catholic Family Center. “Our services are essential and we can still meet our clients’ needs face-to-face in a safe and social distanced manner, as well as provide virtual counseling through the telephone and video conferencing.”

Mental health experts recommend the following to self-care tips that can be incorporated into a daily at-home routine:

  • Have a daily routine such as waking up at the same time and getting dressed to begin each day.
  • Exercise regularly. Eat well. Get a good night's sleep.
  • Maintain social connections. Check in on friends and family regularly.
  • Focus on the things you can control in your life.
  • Set limits on the amount of news you consume each day. Start by limiting how many times you seek out the news and identify the specific news outlets you retrieve information from.
  • Schedule projects to mix up the day-to-day routine. For example, create a porch garden that you can take care of and watch grow.

Physical distancing measures have helped healthcare providers realize how effective telemedicine can be, and in most cases just as effective as in-person consultations.

"You don't necessarily have to be face-to-face to make a difference in someone's life," added Elias. "We are seeing how effective treatment and medication-assisted therapy for co-occurring chemical dependencies and behavioral health illnesses can be administered and managed via tele-consultations and video group sessions. Telehealth sessions are becoming a standard practice in the way we work, to on-the-phone intake sessions to get people started, to wide ranging walk-in hours in locations convenient to the population we serve.”

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