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Health officials warn of increasing mental illness symptoms during COVID-19 crisis

(WDBJ)
Published: Mar. 20, 2020 at 6:24 AM EDT
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The fear, uncertainty and all the lifestyle changes that have come with the

crisis have health officials concerned about our mental health.

COVID-19 has wrecked Americans' way of life in a way that probably hasn't been seen or felt since the 9/11 terror attacks 19 years ago.

"Obviously, there was a lot of fear, anxiety and stress related to that situation," the coordinator of community and outreach services for New River Valley Community Services, Mike Wade said.

Many adults today may feel the same way they did when they saw the towers fall.

"I have personally tended to feel like some of that is similar in some ways because there is some uncertainty," Wade shared. "And we all have questions and not really good answers at this point."

Coronavirus has affected nearly every aspect of our lives from school to work to sports to where we eat and what we do. All these changes being forced upon us can stir up anxiety within us. That's why health officials are reminding everyone not to neglect their mental health during our current crisis.

"I think as a general rule of thumb given the situation, we all have to be mindful of things like our own depression [and] anxiety. For those of us who have PTSD, this can be a trigger," Wade explained. "It's normal to feel the pressures, the anxiety and to feel sad about some of the news we're hearing because people are dying. This is a very scary situation."

What's

not

normal is prolonged feelings sadness and worry even after the virus clears. However, be careful not to self-diagnose.

"It's easy for us to go online, to Google how we think we feel, and find a diagnosis or term that fits how we're feeling at the time," Wade said. He added that if you feel like something is off about your emotional or mental well-being, seek medical help.

Self-awareness and taking inventory of your emotions will help get you through these difficult times. It's also important to seek out the good and remember how resilient we are as community and as a country.

"Just like after the 9/11 attacks, we as a country came together," Wade said. "And I think we reached deep within ourselves to come up with a certain level of resolve and I already see that happening with this particular problem."

Wade said mental health problems could be a mushroom that develops from this virus and health officials are watching it closely. Though it is secondary to the immediate health threat, long term, there could be some behavioral health issues that medical staff are going to have to deal with.

"There are bound to be some outcomes from this whole thing where folks are struggling more with mental health issues," he said.

Whether you have an underlying condition that's being exasperated right now or you're feeling something new entirely, we can all take care of our mental health in the same ways.

"Make sure that you're getting an adequate amount of sleep, that you're eating well and that you're also getting in some form of activity or exercise," he said. "Go outside, take a walk or jog, or do some work around your house."

And while studies show that social media can cause mental health issues, during this time of social distancing it may be the only way to stay connected to our friends and family. Just remember: balance.

"Using social media, not to be completely isolated and just stare at your phone all day, but use it as a resource to connect to people," Wade suggested. "But there are other things to life besides social media and looking at your phone so there are a lot of other things that we can do to maintain our wellness and keep a positive outlook despite these challenging circumstances that we're all faced with."

He also suggested reading books, listening to music or podcasts, watching TV, practicing meditation, or doing some kind of craft or home improvement project. These can help you not feel so isolated. Plus, practicing good mental health habits now will continue to help you even after we get through this crisis.

If you are struggling though, you can reach out to the New River Valley Community Services at 540- 961-8400 or by going to its

.

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