Coronavirus and mental health: Address those issues as they come up

Solidarity Coronavirus Sars Cov
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COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in ways we scarcely expected two weeks ago. The coronavirus and mental health challenges it brings about need to be addressed, not buried.

It can be unsettling to see everything that is going around us. Many people are scared because of the economic uncertainty. All of us know people that have been laid off from work, and many worry about being able to make April’s or May’s rent. Other people are worried about catching the coronavirus itself.

The coronavirus and mental health can interact with each other in many ways. For a lot of people, times like these can bring up old and as yet unresolved insecurities. People dealing with anxiety and depression might find that they have to work harder in dealing with these challenges. Other people might find old traumas being triggered. This is a good time to explore and work to resolve them.

I have experience with coming to terms with the prospect of financial insecurity. I have faced unemployment before, and on a few occasions, I’ve had to ask for help. These things aren’t very new to me, and I can offer some insight from these experience to people. Also, from a young age and as an activist, I’ve also thought about and comes to terms with a future that might seem unsettling. Such scenarios include nuclear war, environmental instability, and economic collapse. Understanding and coming to terms with these possibilities—without obsessing on them or burying them—can help us feel more equipped in uncertain times.

I have a few pieces of advice to cope with these uncertain times. First, limit your exposure to mass media and social media. Read or listen to just enough to keep informed on what is going on. Treat all sources with a healthy skepticism. Aim for being calm, but informed.

Secondly, this is the time to reach out friends, family and neighbors. You can still have text, phone, and video chats. Knowing that you are not alone in this is very helpful. If you don’t have people you can reach out to, Meetup groups are moving social activities online.

Control the things you can. If you anticipate financial struggle, know what resources you have and what resources are out there for you. Assess the level of risk you have for possible complications from the coronavirus, and act accordingly. Anticipate your income and expenses for the next 2-3 months. Find out where food pantries are. Learn as much as you can about applying for unemployment and other resources. The good news is that a number of mutual aid organizations—formal and informal—are sprouting up here in Dane County.

Finally, seek help if you need it, since the coronavirus and mental health challenges can interact in numerous ways. As a therapist, I have always been equipped for video therapy, and I do it through an online channel that is secure, encrypted and HIPAA compliant. My therapy practice has faced little in the way of disruption. My schedule is more flexible than before because I don’t have to worry about shared office space. I’m writing this post from my apartment. I’ve been practicing isolating and social distancing myself for a little over a week.

Due to economic uncertainty many people are facing, I am offering three different tiers of payment to make it easier for people during these trying economic times. I am also offering a free first session to all new customers, not just those who come to me through the Open Path Collective.

The coronavirus crisis can, in fact, be an opportunity for growth. It is a good time to reflect, to turn to others (even with social distancing), and to address unresolved issues. Stay safe, stay well, and contact me if you wish to seek help.