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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.

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


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