How Are You Holding Up? Mental Health in the Age of COVID-19

May 19, 2020

Organizations like the Mental Health Association and New Horizons of the Treasure Coast have plenty of tools and services available to keep our mental health strong.
Credit licensed stock image

So, how are you holding up? That’s a common greeting now these days, and, at its core, it’s a question about our mental health.

While seeking answers, we re-discover the basics: quality sleep, food, and regular exercise. Foundation blocks for strong mental health. And, here’s a biggie: social interaction.

In need of some, we donned personal protective gear, packed up the boom mic and headed over, first to the Mental Health Association in Vero Beach, and then New Horizons of the Treasure Coast in Ft. Pierce.

NC: Hello, I’m Dr. Nicholas Coppolla, CEO of the Mental Health Association.

SF: I’m Director of Marketing, Sheana Firth.

Dr. Nicholas Coppolla, CEO of the Mental Health Association
Credit provided by Mental Health Association

NC: We’re all stressed out with the COVID thing.

He explains how this stress is creating adrenaline flow.

NC: So initially everybody’s cool, everything’s all right, but that we feel like the curve’s flattened, you know that adrenaline grows, and you have these huge swoops, down and up, down and up. Anxious, depressed.

Another stressor? Isolation from friends and family.

NC: We are creatures that have to have interaction and that’s why I think this thing is really going to affect our mental health more than expected is because we haven’t been able to interact with each other.

He says that the Mental Health Association is there if you need them with a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and 7 therapists & social workers at the ready – by phone, online, or same day in-person. And they are launching a Mood and Anxiety Support Group, online for now. We ask if they've seen an increase in calls for help.

NC: Initially, when, from March 17 when the Governor, you know, locked everybody in. We saw about a 75% decrease for the first two weeks. After that, we’ve seen a 35% increase every week thereafter. Mostly at this point in time it’s been front line workers, first responders, health care workers.

Sheana Firth, Director of Marketing for Mental Health Association
Credit provided by Mental Health Association

Firth says there’s plenty available on their website to turn somewhere quick for help and inspiration right now.

SF: We have a lot of tools on there for anyone who is struggling with any kind of emotional distress. And it doesn’t have to be a massive emotional distress. It could be, “I’m not sleeping well. I’m just feeling a little isolated, a little lonely.”

Next, we head south to Fort Pierce in St. Lucie County, and meet with...

GS: George Shopland, president and CEO of New Horizons of the Treasure Coast.  I think what we really need as a community to acknowledge, this is hard. To acknowledge that we’re all struggling with this..

New Horizons is the largest behavioral health provider on the Treasure Coast to over 10,000 people a year.

GS: Our motive is we help people in their struggle, whatever that looks like.

Since lockdown began, they’ve been reaching out to those 10,000 people they serve.

George Shopland, President and CEO of New Horizons of the Treasure Coast
Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan

GS: So, we’re doing a lot of tele-health. We’re calling people. We’re reaching out. We’re connecting on an ongoing basis, just in a different way.

But, now he has a new concern, exclusive to the pandemic:

GS: It’s the people we don’t serve. It’s the ‘yous’ and ‘mes’ of the world who are home and facing this new crisis.  They’re the ones that really concern me more.

And our usual coping skills, like going out to dinner or the movies, have been stripped away which makes the stress of the pandemic even harder.

 GS: Now add: I’ve now got my kids at home. Whom I have to home-school. On topics I may or may not know. While they are stressed and overwhelmed, they are sensing my stress. So, it becomes this build. And now we have a fatigue factor on top of all that. It’s been going on so long.

So when it gets tough, pick up the phone and call either a friend or a professional.

GS: We need to be OK saying, I need somebody just to listen. There is truly a power in the interpersonal connection.

Here are links to the Mental Health Association and New Horizons where you can find tools and services:

https://www.mhairc.org/

http://nhtcinc.org/