Hey, Charleston, Katie here. I want to take some time to address mental health in relation to COVID-19.
First of all, let’s start out with some US statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
○ 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness each year.
○ 1 in 6 youth (ages 6-17) experience a mental health disorder each year.
○ 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
○ Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34.
These stats were drawn from data from 2018, and since then, mental illness rates have increased.
According to Mental Health America, data shows that there was a 19% increase in clinical anxiety in the first weeks of February, and a 12% increase in the first two weeks of March this year – both times in which major changes were occurring nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is a stressful time for everyone, and for many, it can take a significant toll on mental health. Loneliness, fear, financial trouble, + other emotional circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis can lead people to feel out of control.
Today, we are sharing some tips recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) + MUSC Health for managing stress and keeping your mental health in check, as well as additional resources that are available.
Stopping what you’re doing to take a few deep breaths can help to calm nerves + allow you to focus on the present moment.
○ MUSC recommends inhaling through your nose for four seconds, then exhaling for four seconds.
○ Try virtual meditation + yoga classes to practice focus + breathing techniques.
○ Check out these mobile apps MUSC recommends for breathing exercises.
Take this extra time at home to cook healthy meals, exercise and set a good sleep schedule.
○ Check out this list of local virtual workouts that will get you moving + your endorphins flowing.
○ Go outside + get some sun. Vitamin D is said to potentially play a part in reducing feelings of depression + anxiety.
Maintain a regular routine
Healthcare professionals at Mayo Clinic recommend keeping your daily schedule as regulated as possible, including getting ready for the day, having consistent meal times, dedicated time for work, etc. Keeping a regular schedule can help reduce stress by allowing you to feel in control of your day.
Connect with friends + family
Quarantine can feel extremely lonely, so be sure to take advantage of your inner circle. Calling a friend or family member can alleviate the feeling of isolation, as well as provide an opportunity to talk about how you’re feeling.
Relax + recharge
It’s easy to get caught up in work, stress, etc. when you are at home all day. Be sure to take some time to unplug by reading a book, taking a nap, or anything that helps you recharge.
○ This is a great time to go off the grid. Ditching social media + screens for even a few hours can help you to relax and focus on things that keep you calm.
○ Check out these digital resources for books, music, audiobooks + more to wind down with.
Focus on the good
It’s easy to get caught up in all the bad happening right now, so it’s important to focus on the positive things.
Know that it’s okay to ask for help
Whether it’s your family, friends, coworkers or health professionals, reach out to someone if you need help – there are tons of people who are willing to talk with you.
○ The SC Department of Mental Health offers resources including a community crisis response intervention team available 24/7 at 1-833-364-2274.
○ Mental Health America gives tons of national resources for tools + info on anxiety, financial support, webinars, help for specific groups + more.
○ MUSC Health Virtual Health offers various services including mental health counseling and is available 24/7 without an appointment.
○ Roper St. Francis Healthcare Virtual Care is available 24/7 without an appointment.
○ The Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center remains open. The center’s updates + resources for handling stress during this time can be found here. The center provides emergency services 24/7 that can be reached at 843-414-2350 or 1-800-613-8379, and more info can be found here.
○ Here is a directory of additional SC mental health centers and clinics.
○ United Way’s SC 211 program offers coronavirus-specific mental health resources like a Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990), a guide to common experiences during a disease outbreak + a list of SC mental health resources.
○ Mayo Clinic’s advice on recognizing the difference between day-to-day stress and something more serious.
○ Watch ABC News 4’s interview with two Lowcountry mental health experts to help answer questions regarding COVID-19. Interviewees include Moncks Corner psychiatrist Dr. Lori B. Gerding, MD + professional counselor Matt Dorman, who serves as the executive director of Berkeley Community Mental Health Center.
○ The Charleston-area National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) branch offers resources from mental health education to community support. Learn more here.
○ The CDC offers additional resources for parents, people at high risk, people coming out of quarantine + first responders here.
○ The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Note: if you are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression – no matter how severe – know that you are not alone. Our team, your community + health professionals are here to support and help you.