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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.

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.

GOT’s Sophie Turner Talks Mental Health, Depression

Sophie Turner depression
Image credits Gage Skidmore

On HBO’s recently completed series Game of Thrones, Sophie Turner played Sansa Stark, Lady of Winterfell and eventual Queen of the North. In real life, she’s a young adult who suffers from depression for which she’s sought counseling and takes prescribed medications.

In an interview on Dr. Phil McGraw’s podcast Phil in the Blanks, Turner opened up about her depression and mental health struggles. Her depression materialized when she was 17, about four years into her work with Game of Thrones. Although she doesn’t blame social media entirely for her depression, she did say comments on social media about her character’s weight gain or “spotty” complexion added to her depression. 

Let’s Talk Numbers

Turner isn’t alone as a teen suffering from depression. Statistics say 20% of teens will be affected by depression before they reach adulthood. The average Mississippi school has 450 students. This statistic means 90 of them will likely deal with depression before they reach the age of twenty.

Only 30% of teens with depression will seek treatment. So out of those 90 students, only 30 will receive the help they need.

Which leads us to the statistic none of us want to talk about, suicide is the third leading cause of death of teenagers.

Removing the Stigma

Hollywood stars aren’t always great at promoting healthy lifestyles. Luckily, many actors, actresses and other performers are openly discussing their mental health challenges. Many of those challenges, like Demi Lovato’s, include substance abuse.

The more we talk about mental health the same way we discuss heart health and diabetes, the easier it becomes for teens and adults to seek out the help they need. We can all contribute to efforts to remove the stigma of seeking counseling or other mental health support.

  • Talk openly about mental health.
  • Show compassion for those with mental illness.
  • Be supportive of those who are struggling with mental illness.
  • Choose your words carefully. (i.e. don’t use mental illness diagnosis like OCD or bipolar as adjectives and don’t label people with mental illness as “crazy” or “insane”.)
  • Education yourself.
  • Encourage equality between mental and physical illnesses.

As children and teens see the adults in their lives responding differently to mental illness, they’ll respond differently as well. Which means they’ll be more likely to speak up and receive the treatment they need.

Recognize the Symptoms

The first step to ensuring your child receives the help they need is recognizing the symptoms. 

  • Has your child’s behavior changed?
  • Is their school work suffering?
  • Are they having difficulties at school, home or work?
  • Have their sleep patterns changed?
  • Do they have a sensitivity to light or sound that has lasted longer than two weeks?
  • Are they feeling sad, hopeless or worthless?
  • Have their eating habits changed (either eating too much or not enough)?
  • Do they have problems with concentration or memory?

Seek Help

If you’ve recognized the signs of depression or other mental illness in your teen or your teen has asked you for help, you don’t have to manage this alone. Our behavioral health specialists can guide you and your family as you seek the help you need. Your willingness to help your teen find help continues to remove the stigma attached to mental illness. Make an appointment with one of our counselors by calling 662-282-4359. 


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