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A Health Concern Made Worse by the Pandemic

As published in the, May 7, 2020

During the COVID 19 pandemic, mental health conditions can be significantly worse in individuals.  People fear they, or a loved one, will contract the virus or they will not have sufficient money to pay bills or purchase food, and their levels of anxiety and depression increase.

May is mental health awareness month.  About 1 in 5 adults, and 17% of youth in the United States experience a mental health disorder.  Anxiety disorders and depression are by far the most common mental illnesses.

Diagnosing mental illness isn’t a straightforward science.  We can’t test for it the same way we test blood sugar levels for diabetes.  Each condition has its own set of unique symptoms. Common signs and/or symptoms can include:  feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks; trying to harm or end one’s life or making plans to do so; severe and dangerous out-of-control risk-taking behavior; sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, often accompanied by a racing heart or difficulty breathing; excessive use of alcohol or drugs; drastic changes in mood, behavior, or sleeping habits; extreme difficulty concentrating or staying still; intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities.

Mental health treatment – therapy, medication, self-care – has helped many to recover.  Unfortunately, in the U.S. the average delay between symptom onset and treatment is 11 years.  If your loved one has any of these symptoms ask questions.  Help them connect with family and friends.  Consider having them join a support group and you join one also.   Online look for yoga, meditation, exercise and others options for self care. Talk with a health care professional.  Those in crisis in Columbia and Greene Counties can call the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (518-943-5555) for immediate assistance.   The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Helpline is also available at 800-950-6264.

Why get help?  Nationally, people with serious mental illness have an increased risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes; 19% of adults with a mental health disorder also have a substance use disorder; and rates of cardiometabolic disease is twice as high in adults with serious mental illness.  There is also impact on families who must care for individuals with emotional or mental illness: on average these caregivers spend 32 hrs. per week providing unpaid care.   If you are a caregiver for someone with mental illness consider joining a free NAMI Family Support Group.  NAMI Columbia County is currently offering Family Support Group online through Zoom on the first and third Wednesday of each month. Please click to register.

During Mental Health Awareness month and this pandemic, we ask that you please look after yourself, your loved ones, and friends for signs of mental illness, and if appropriate, take steps to get help before it gets worse.

Nicole Corey, President
NAMI Columbia County, NY

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