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Managing the Effects of Social Distancing on Mental Illness

Managing the Effects of Social Distancing on Mental Illness

Managing the Effects of Social Distancing on Mental Illness

Social distancing is important to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, it can have unintended mental health consequences. We as humans are designed to be social, to interact with one another, and even to respond to positive touch. While we don’t have a lot of studies surrounding quarantine and isolation, the few studies conducted following the 2004 SARS outbreak show an increase in anxiety and depression. As social distancing drags on, we can expect to see more people suffering from mental illness.

If we could squash the coronavirus and end social distancing today, we would. We would have ended it a month ago if that was in our power, but it’s not. We can, however, recognize what’s happening around us and take steps to care for our mental health and the health of others around us every day.

Admit the truth about our new world

Almost everyone feels a bit “off” right now. We’ve all been affected whether by losing a job, being sent home to telecommute, not being able to find the supplies we need in stores, or being directly exposed to or sick with the virus. Nothing about this situation is okay, and the first step to managing our mental health is to admit it.

Our emotions can range from fear and anxiety to depression and boredom to anger. Admit your emotions and give yourself permission to say this situation isn’t okay. Then think about what parts of the situation you can control.

Stay connected

While we may not be able to hang out with friends after work or have dinner with our extended family, we can take advantage of technology to stay connected. Plan a virtual happy hour with friends online. Video chat with family members. Text friends and check in with them on a daily basis. 

Pay particular attention to friends or family members who have suffered from anxiety, depression or loneliness in the past and older adults who live alone. These groups tend to have the hardest time managing the anxiety and depression that comes along with social distancing.

Temper your expectations

Gwyneth Paltrow suggests we use this time away from school and work to learn a new language, pick up an instrument or read a book. Those expectations set the bar pretty high. If you’re doing good to keep up your kids’ homeschool assignments while managing your telecommuting work let that be enough. Taking up a new hobby that doesn’t include monitoring the news every fifteen minutes is a great way to pass the time, but don’t expect your piano skills to be ready for Carnegie Hall in four weeks.

Creating unrealistic expectations for yourself during this time only increases your stress levels.

Create a routine

Routines won’t cure everything, but they place something back into your control. Include time for exercise and being outdoors if you can manage it while observing social distancing rules. Luckily in Mississippi, most of us can.

Staying busy keeps our minds off the news and the fears about job security, paying the bills, and access supplies.

Limit news access

Just because news is available 24/7 doesn’t mean we need to consume it during all those hours. Increased news and social media consumption lead to increased anxiety and depression. Set specific times each day that you’ll check the news and select reputable news sources.

We wish improving and protecting your mental health during these days of uncertainty was as easy as following a few bullet points. We know it’s not. These points can help you find a clear path to managing the anxiety and fear that lives among almost all of us right now. The one thing we ask you not to do is numb your emotions using drugs and alcohol.

If your depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns are affecting your everyday life, it’s time to get some help. Call our mental health clinic at 662-282-4359 to talk to a counselor about options available for you. Don’t suffer alone. Ask for help.

For additional suggestions on managing fear and anxiety during the days ahead check out this article from PSYCOM.

Celebrating Sobriety Every Day

cupcakes, celebrating sobriety, national sobriety day

Choosing to step out and seek treatment for addiction is one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever make. We’re working hard to remove the stigma of addiction and to encourage more people to choose recovery. For some recovering addicts, celebrating sobriety milestones is an important step in the recovery process. December 11 is National Sobriety Day, but we encourage you to celebrate your sobriety every day.

Celebrating sobriety looks a little different than celebrating life’s other milestones such as weddings and graduations because sobriety is celebrated sober. If you’ve never planned a sobriety celebration, now’s the time to start.

Start Small

Cook a fancy meal at home or try a new restaurant with your spouse, best friend, or immediate family. Small celebrations are especially meaningful if you’re still in the first phase of sobriety. Your family or closest friends will want to celebrate your determination with you and show their support. Make sure they know you’re celebrating sobriety and you expect them to abstain from alcohol during the meal as well. If you’re eating out, ask your server to remove the wine or drink list from the table and not to suggest drinks with your meal.

Get Active

Alcohol and drugs steal our time and our energy. As you progress in your sobriety, you’ll find you have more of both of these resources. Try a new outdoor activity such as hiking, running, biking, fishing, or swimming. Invite supportive friends and family members to join you. Let them know the day’s activity is a celebration of your sobriety and alcohol and drugs are not permitted on the trip. Setting boundaries and surrounding yourself with supportive people are key parts of maintaining your sobriety.

Create New Traditions

As we move into the holidays, a lot of family traditions center around drinking. From grandma’s eggnog at Christmas to champagne on New Year’s Eve and beers during a ballgame, you may find yourself challenged at every turn. Combined with the stress of family gatherings, those temptations may prove to be a powderkeg for you. Choose now to set some new holiday traditions. Bake and decorate cookies together. Serve lunch at a local shelter. Drive around and look at Christmas lights. Host a soup cook-off. Every family tradition starts somewhere. Yours starts here with you.

Go Big

The early milestones of recovery may require quieter celebration to keep you on track, but long-term milestones like a year or five-years call for bigger celebrations. By now you’re past the first few hard days of sobriety, but you understand the importance of maintaining your commitment to your new lifestyle. And your friends and family are adjusting to the new you without drugs or alcohol. You may still choose to include a small group of supportive friends and family, but consider an out-of-town trip or a big vacation celebrate. Find a vacation travel planner that specializes in sober travel deals to celebrate on a cruise or trip that skips the alcohol. 

However you choose to celebrate sobriety, we encourage you to celebrate it every day. Each moment lived without the control of drugs and alcohol is a beautiful day. 

If you haven’t chosen a sober lifestyle yet, but you’re ready to kick your addictions, our counselors are ready to speak with you. And if you’ve walked the path of sobriety, but somehow lost your way, we’re here for that too. Call us at 662-282-4359 to speak with someone today.

Grief Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

Grief Support for Survivors of Suicide Loss

The holidays prove to be difficult for anyone who has lost a loved one. For those whose loved one ended their own life, the grief and holidays can be even more difficult. Finding support for survivors of suicide loss is an important part of the healing process. This year’s International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is November 23, just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The shock and grief following a loved one’s death by suicide can feel overwhelming. Grief, in general, can feel all-consuming, but following a suicide, it may also include confusion, anger, rejection, and shame. Some survivors may be at an increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts themselves. 

If someone you loved has taken their own life, remember you are not alone. It’s estimated that the 800,000 suicides that took place from 1986 to 2010 each touched at least six lives. That means more than 5-million people have been affected. Grief looks different for everyone, and it crops up in unexpected places sometimes years after the loss.

Don’t ignore your grief or allow anyone to minimize it. Find people in your life who are good listeners, and limit your time with people who try to push their own expectations on you. Many survivors of suicide loss find support groups and one-on-one counseling to be a great help. These sessions may help you work through your grief, questions, and even feelings of guilt.

For the friends and family of those affected by suicide stay close to your grieving friend. Be open to share a memory of the person they lost and say his or her name. On the flip side, be willing to sit quietly with a friend when that’s what they need. Ask for ways you help during the difficult days. Go grocery shopping. Watch their children. Drive them to appointments. Bring dinner. Wash the laundry. All the simple tasks they may be too overwhelmed to manage.

Our counselors are trained to help as you sort through the confusing maze of grief after any loss, but specifically the different type of grief that accompanies suicide. Call our office at 662-282-4359 to make an appointment.

If you’re looking for resources on how to support a friend or family member who has experienced suicide loss, we’ve listed a few valuable resources below.

Helping a Student Who Has Lost a Friend or Family Member to Suicide (Although specifically geared towards students, this resource is valuable to anyone of any age.)

Understanding Survivors of Suicide Loss

Suicide survivors face grief, questions, challenges

Men’s Health: A Hairy Situation

man with beard; men's health awareness; movember

Men’s Health Awareness advocates have renamed November to Movember. They encourage men to retire the razor a month and grow out their mustaches and beards in hopes of motivating conversations about men’s health. Across the world, women live longer than men, and in the United States, it averages an extra five years of life. Take a dive with us through the testosterone waters to find out why.

Who are you?

Men are twenty-percent less likely to have seen a medical provider in the last year than women. Is it because they’re healthier? Nope.

On average, men have their first heart attack around age 65, while a woman’s first heart attack happens later around age 72. (Although women are still more likely to die from a heart attack than men.)

Men are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes at a younger age and lower BMI than women.

Men are more likely to develop, and die from, cancer than women. 

Men are three times more likely to die from suicide, although more women are diagnosed with depression than men.

All of these diseases are most easily prevented and treated in their early stages. Preventative treatment and screenings can identify risks before the illness strikes — but only if the patient seeks out that treatment. Additionally, men are less likely to follow a treatment plan than women.

Enter Movember

Raising awareness increases conversations between men about their physical and mental health. The more men talk about health screenings and their mental health, the more they realize they aren’t alone. 

Celebrate Men’s Health Awareness Month by scheduling a yearly wellness check-up with your medical provider. If you have health insurance, this wellness visit is usually covered 100%. This exam includes checking your blood pressure, a key measurement for determining heart disease.

Keep the celebration going by scheduling your necessary health screenings: 

  • Prostate cancer screening after age 40 with a family history; after age 45 for African American men; after age 50 for all men.
  • Colonoscopy at age 50.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening between ages 65-75 if you’ve ever used tobacco.

Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about your mental health, including a counselor or therapist if needed. More and more men are talking about their mental health including celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds, Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Love, Micheal Phelps, Chris Evans, and many more. If they’re not afraid to open up about depression and anxiety, you shouldn’t be either.

Finally, follow your wife/sister/daughter/friend’s example and do some self-care work. Exercise. Drink plenty of water. Find a hobby you enjoy. Try to eat a little healthier. Stop smoking. 

Your life is valuable and we need you around for many years to come.

Suicide Prevention Month: What You Need to Know

suicide prevention month

An average of 129 suicides occur each day in the United States. 129. Let that number sink in for a moment. That means that today, more than 100 Americans will take their own lives. 

Disturbing statistics like this are the reason September has been recognized as Suicide Prevention Month. Organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline understand the causes of suicide and believe this is one manner of death that can be prevented. 

The Causes of Suicide

Unlike most illnesses or causes of death, the exact cause of each individual suicide can’t always be narrowed down. However, a number of common risk factors are found in many suicide victims according to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders such as schizophrenia and some personality disorders.
  • Drug addiction or alcohol abuse 
  • History of abuse or trauma
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Aggressive or impulsive tendencies
  • A major physical illness or injury
  • Lack of healthcare, particularly for mental or substance abuse treatment
  • Relationship, job or financial loss
  • Family history of suicide
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Lack of social support; stigma surrounding mental health, substance abuse, and suicide
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Ease of access to means of suicide
  • Religious or cultural beliefs, especially if suicide is viewed as a noble resolution for a problem
  • Exposure to others who have committed suicide including in real life, internet or media

As you can see, there’s no shortage of risk factors for suicide. It’s important to note that white, middle-aged men are at a greater risk for suicide than any other group. In fact, white males accounted for almost 70% of suicides that occurred in the U.S. in 2017. 

Spotting the Risks

Suicide Prevention Month is a great time to remember to be aware of the risks of suicide. You already know the risk factors, but you also need to recognize the warning signs that come with those factors. You should get help if you or someone you love:

  • Talks about wanting to die.
  • Looks for means for suicide, such as searching for ways online or buying a gun.
  • Speaks about feelings of hopelessness, a lack of a will to live, unbearable pain, or being a burden to others.
  • Begins behaving recklessly or acts anxious or agitated
  • Becomes increasingly isolated or withdrawn.
  • Sleeps too much or too little.
  • Displays extreme mood swings, shows rage, or speaks of revenge. 

If you recognized any of these behaviors or risk factors in yourself or a loved one, don’t wait to reach out and get help. Mantachie Rural Health Care has joined the fight against suicide by providing accessible and affordable healthcare and behavioral healthcare to everyone in our community. Contact us today to learn how we can help you or your loved one address mental and physical issues that increase the risk of suicide.

If you or someone you love is in crisis, dial the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help. Suicide Prevention Month spreads awareness and saves lives. By sharing this valuable information with someone, you might save their life.

Early Alzheimer’s Signs Not to Miss

older woman and caregiver walking away; early Alzheimer's signs

For most people with Alzheimer’s symptoms begin in the mid-to-late 60s. Those rare cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s may begin to notice symptoms as early as their 30s. In either case, the National Institute on Aging believes it’s likely the damage leading to these signs begins a decade before the patient or anyone else notices the signs.

During the early or mild stages of Alzheimer’s, when most patients are diagnosed, patients experience very similar symptoms. Many patients know something isn’t exactly right. Family and friends who do not see the person on a regular basis may even write off a few odd behaviors as typical aging. Most Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms represent a change in a person’s behavior.

Forgetfulness

It’s common as we age to forget a person’s name and remember it later. We may not know what day of the week it is but then figure it out. Forgetfulness may include struggling with dates and times, misplacing items more frequently or not remembering something you just learned. When you discover you or a loved one relies more and more on memory aids like written notes, reminders set on their phone or assistance from family members visit your provider to discuss the changes.

Difficulty with Daily Tasks

By the time we reach our mid-sixties, most of us have gotten ourselves dressed for the day for over half a century. Remembering what clothes to wear in what weather or how to button our shirt seems like second nature unless you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s. In addition to struggling to dress themselves, Alzheimer patients may also struggle to balance the checkbook, make plans or decisions, cook a simple meal or drive themselves to a familiar place.

Mood and Personality Changes

Knowing you’re confused but not being able to do anything about it is very scary. Often these changes cause a previously outgoing person to retreat. They may prefer to stay at home where things are familiar or they won’t be asked questions they can’t answer. They may also leave favorite hobbies because they find themselves making frequent mistakes. Or they may not remember how to complete the tasks required. Other personality changes include moodiness, anger, anxiety, more confusion, and depression.

Unfortunately, science does not have a cure for Alzheimer’s yet. This devastating illness progresses requiring more intensive care and supervision. There are medications that can help along with support programs for caregivers and family members.

If you suspect someone you love has Alzheimer’s or you need mental health support as you care for the Alzheimer’s patient in your life make an appointment with one of our counselors today.


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