Last updated on 12 JAN 2021
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Once a term that carried with it a dark stigma, mental health is now a core component of overall general health. It has emerged from the shadows thanks to many who have shared their struggles publicly, including several celebrities who acknowledge that it’s time to talk about it. Issues related to mental health have been exacerbated by the pandemic and subsequent social distancing and lockdown measures. However, as much as it has reared its ugly head, there are more mental health support and coping mechanisms than ever before in Western society.
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Common Mental Health Struggles During the Pandemic
The first and most important struggle that we all face is isolation. Before the pandemic hit, we were able to go visit a friend or family member if we had a rough day, or take the dog for a long walk to de-stress. Now, non-essential travel is severely limited, vacations and escapes perhaps years in the planning have been cancelled, and when we’re not performing essential duties or shopping for groceries, we’ve been stuck inside for months on end.
Many families have also had to deal with tragedy and grief through the loss of loved ones to the COVID virus. Sometimes it’s not being able to say goodbye in person, other times it’s the rapid and surprising aggressiveness of the virus taking those that we love before we even know that they’re in trouble. No matter what the situation, it is a massive blow to mental health.
Finally, the one word that needs to be discussed honestly and openly is depression. The single-most common mental issue, it comes in various forms and styles, from anxiety over things you cannot control to clinical depression brought upon by chemical imbalances in the mind. No matter what, acknowledging it is the first step in combating it. It is important to reinforce that throughout this pandemic, as much as we may feel it, we are not alone in our struggles.
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Who & Where Can You Get Help From?
The first place, where those who know you best can support you, is from friends and family. We live in a society where interconnectedness is part and parcel of our daily lives. This may be through emails, social media apps, video chat, online multiplayer games, and a hundred other ways that we have never been able to communicate before. If you feel alone and feel the struggle, sometimes it’s that weekend call to mom that lets you get the emotion out and the help in.
In more serious cases and conditions, many professional organizations have outpatient assistance programs, such as Mission Harbor Behavioral Health based out of California. These programs offer tiered and step-by-step therapy and treatment programs that you can do at home, and have 24/7/365 availability.
Another benefit of these professional programs is that they can also help with substance abuse issues, which some have turned to to self-medicate through these challenging times. As with all things regarding getting better, admitting there is a problem is the first step. However, that is exactly what these treatment centers and programs are designed for.
It is the absolute pinnacle of courage to admit to someone else: “I need help.”
Employee/Family Assistance Plans
In the office and working world, it used to be that mental health was rarely acknowledged, and issues that could have been easily prevented with appropriate intervention arose. Nowadays, the health insurance or health plan that employers offer include a section dedicated entirely to counselling, mental health, family assistance, and even extra days off if needed.
It is through this shattering of the barriers that prevented treatment before that many who would have had issues before are receiving appropriate treatment. This also benefits the employer, who instead of having an employee potentially underperforming, now has an employee that feels good about themselves, and subsequently is more likely to perform better in their duties.
If your employer does offer a health insurance or health plan, you can always talk to the Human Resources department for more information. More often than not, these plans will also contain ways to directly contact local resources confidentially, so that the entire discussion happens outside of the employers field of view.
It is also never a bad thing to take advantage of the insurance and plans offered. They are not part of your employment just to make the job look good. It is the employer putting forth appropriate resources to look after their people, and that alone can help stop the “I’m just a number” feelings that some have.
Other Ways to Support Mental Health During the Pandemic
Silly as it may sound, exercise. Mental exercise and physical exercise both promote the release of “happy chemicals” in your body known as endorphins. It may be the sudoku puzzle you work through over breakfast that gives you that “Yeah!” feeling when you solve a particularly difficult one. It may be “the pump” you feel after jogging that extra half mile than your previous best in the same time as your normal route. Whatever it is, endorphins are good, and the rush we get when they are released helps to keep our minds and health positive.
Another important way to support mental health is to talk. It may not be face to face, but there are more ways today to connect with other humans in socially distanced situations than ever before. Skype, Zoom, Discord, multiplayer games on consoles with voice chat integrated… it’s never been easier to just reach out and say hello.
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