“Together for Mental Health” – Continued Collaboration for Mental Illness Awareness Week

Ilexa AxelrodBy Ilexa Axelrod, BA, Master of Social Work Intern on Behavioral Health Team

Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW), established by Congress over thirty years ago, is Sunday, Oct. 2 through Saturday, Oct. 8. MIAW brings awareness to mental health-related issues that millions of people face to defy stigmatization, combat oppression and offer support each year during the first week of October.

Together we can partner to highlight advocacy, resources and assistance for those with mental health concerns.

When is something considered a “mental health concern?”

When someone experiences thoughts, feelings, or displays behaviors that results in distress, dissatisfaction or dysfunction. Symptoms may interfere with daily life, relationships and other areas of functioning.

Mental illnesses are very common and are found across the world and in varying cultures. Mental health issues may develop from traumatic experiences, sudden life changes, ongoing stress and oftentimes run in families.

What can we do about it?

For yourself

  1. Fulfill your most basic needs: I make sure I’ve had enough water, sleep and eat regularly.
  2. Engage in activities that bring you joy: My favorite things to do include practicing yoga and cooking new recipes.
  3. Talk to someone you trust: They can be a family member, partner or friend.
  4. Seek professional help: It is very common for folks to regularly see a therapist and psychiatrist to help manage concerns and provide a nonjudgmental space.

 Health Partnership Clinic offers affordable therapy and psychiatry services to those who seek them. To schedule an appointment, you may call 913-730-3664.

For others

  1. Be a lifelong learner: While it can be helpful to ask questions about someone’s mental health concerns, it is also beneficial to educate yourself on their specific disorder and how you can best support them.
  2. Practice partnership: As someone who is a “fixer,” I often find it helpful to ask someone if they are looking for support or solutions which allows them to hold the reigns.
  3. Take care of yourself: Supporting someone who is struggling can be difficult. You are your priority, and it is essential to prioritize your wellbeing before someone else’s.

 Who is affected?

Together for Mental HealthThe National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides fast facts that capture who is affected by mental disorders.

  • One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year
  • One in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year
  • One in six U.S. youth aged six-17 years old experience a mental health disorder each year
  • MI by the numbers:
    • 44 percent are Queer
    • 32 percent are Multiracial
    • 22 percent are white
    • 19 percent are American Indian or Alaska Native
    • 18 percent are Latinx
    • 17 percent are Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
    • 17 percent are Black
    • 14 percent are Asian  
  • Annual prevalence among U.S. adults:
    • Anxiety Disorders: 19.1 percent (48 million)
    • Major Depression Episode: 7.8 percent (19.4 million people)
    • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6 percent (9 million people)
    • Bipolar Disorder: 2.8 percent (7 million)
    • Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4 percent (3.5 million people)
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2 percent (3 million people)
    • Schizophrenia: <1 percent (1.5 million people)

How can we get involved in Mental Illness Awareness Week?

  • Share your own story or read others’ online at https://nami.org/personal-stories.
  • Use social media to post, read and follow. An example NAMI offers to post:
    • One in 20 U.S. adults experience severe mental illness each year, but less than two-thirds get treatment. We must improve access to quality care. #Together4MH
  • Participate in related events:
    • Thursday, October 6: National Depression Screening Day
    • Monday, October 10: World Mental Health Day

Resources for Immediate Help

Local

Johnson County Mental Health Center Crisis Line: 913-268-0156

Headquarters Counseling (KS Suicide Prevention Headquarters): 785-841-2345

National

National Suicide Hotline: Call 988

988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Chat: https://988lifeline.org/chat/

Why is that broken clock on your wall?

Christopher Woodward“A broken clock is right twice a day.”
By Christopher Woodward, LMAC, Substance Abuse Specialist

September is National Recovery Month. The aim of this month is to increase awareness and understanding of mental and substance use disorders and celebrate the people who recover.

If you have been to the HPC office, you know that the clock on the wall has been broken for about two years. That’s weird, right? Why would you have a broken clock in your office for two years? Well to be honest it never really bothered me all that much. I knew it was broken and didn’t tell time. But it was right twice a day! I just left it up and didn’t address it.

For me, the broken clock was not a problem… more of an inconvenience. However, to everyone else it was more of a problem. Were they late? Did they fall asleep? Others that came in seemed to question it. Some would look up confused like the broken clock was some hidden camera show or a trick.  After a while, I started to notice the reactions of people. Some look up and scowl, some would get confused and disoriented, some would look at the clock and look at me and just choose not to say anything.

Recovery

National Recovery MonthIn recovery, some of us leave broken clocks on the wall. We have persons, places and playthings around us that don’t work all the time. We have things on the walls of our life that we don’t need any more or that don’t benefit our recovery.

For example, keeping contacts in our phones for people that we know are using or we have used with. Keeping pictures of past “good times” in our camera roll. Not cleaning out our drawers and our hiding spots, so that we can find something that might get us in trouble or turn us back towards a lapse or a relapse.

Other people in our lives see the broken clock on the wall and can become frustrated by it. They become consumed by the question of why would that person hang on to a behavior, relationship or thought that no longer works? Hanging broken clocks is much like holding onto a relationship that we know isn’t healthy and seems to be holding us back from our recovery goals. And that unhealthy relationship is often like a clock that’s only right twice a day.

Taking Down the Broken Clock

Broken ClockMy recovery work is to take down the clock and work on it, to see what is defective about it. Is it the gear box? Does it need a battery… or is it beyond repair? Just like in treatment, we examine it. In this case, the clock in the office was beyond repair, so I had to take it down and find a new place for it, right? No, I had to separate myself from the clock, put it in the trash and move on.  Much is the same with recovery, examining why I don’t need the broken things of my past to be hanging on the walls of my life for all to see is a deep and difficult path. But once the old clock is gone and a new one is in place, my soul feels renewed… Open to new adventures where I don’t have to explain the broken clock on the wall.

July is Minority Mental Health Month

Gretchen WellsWritten by Gretchen Wells, MSW, LCSW, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician, Health Partnership Clinic

Mental illness occurs in people of all ethnicities, races, national origins, sexual orientations, and gender identities, as well as other cultural identities. Any of us may experience distress related to mental health concerns, irrespective of our background. However, those from diverse cultural groups (such as Black/African American; American Indian/Alaska Native; Hispanic/Latinx; Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native Hawaiian; and LGBTQIA+ communities) often experience inequities related to their behavioral health treatment, support, and quality of care.

According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have access to appropriate mental health services, more likely to utilize hospital emergency departments for mental health needs, and, as a whole, appear to have poorer mental health outcomes.

In order to improve access to mental health treatment and promote public awareness of needs and concerns related to mental illness for diverse populations, Congress formally recognized Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month on June 2, 2008. This is in memory of Bebe Moore Campbell, an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health activist, who labored diligently to bring awareness to the mental health needs of the Black community and other diverse populations. Campbell advocated tirelessly for her daughter, who struggled with both mental illness and a system that seemed to keep her from receiving proper treatment and support. She founded the Inglewood chapter of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in a primarily Black neighborhood to establish a secure place for Black individuals to discuss mental health concerns. Campbell sadly lost her battle with cancer in 2006, but her legacy in the mental health advocacy field lives on.

“While everyone – all colors – everyone is affected by stigma – no one wants to say ‘I’m not in control of my mind.’ No one wants to say, ‘The person I love is not in control of [their] mind.’ But people of color really don’t want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don’t want any more reasons for anyone to say, ‘You’re not good enough.'”
– Bebe Moore Campbell

Minority Mental Health

Minority Mental HealthNAMI has adopted the message of “Together for Mental Health” for 2022’s Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month this July. Together, we can realize our shared vision of a nation where anyone affected by mental illness, regardless of their background, culture, ethnicity or identity, can receive the appropriate support and quality of care to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

The entire mental health system in the U.S. needs drastic improvement, including when it comes to serving diverse populations. The following are just a few examples of barriers that these communities are often forced to deal with when attempting to access care:

  • Language difficulties
  • A system with little or no cultural consideration
  • Racism, bias, and discrimination in treatment settings
  • Reduced quality of care
  • Less likelihood of health care coverage
  • Stigma from numerous directions (for being part of a marginalized community and for struggling with mental illness), etc.

“What Can I Do”?

Below is a list of ways that you can help ignite change related to the mental health of underrepresented communities:

  • Consider giving a presentation or starting a conversation about mental illness in your community – Check out the NAMI website for sample presentations that you can use, such as Sharing Hope for Black communities and Compartiendo Esperanza for Hispanic/Latinx communities.
  • Emphasize the importance of a culturally competent provider, one who values the integration of patients’ beliefs and values into their treatment.
  • Advocate – Call, write, e-mail, or otherwise start a dialogue about mental health awareness with your legislators, both state- and nation-wide.
  • Share your story or experience related to mental illness – But only if you feel comfortable doing so. There are story-sharing platforms like Ok2Talk and You Are Not Alone if you’re ever feeling isolated or that your community does not understand mental illness.
  • Join a virtual or in-person mental health advocacy walk to raise awareness and fight the stigma (such as NAMI Walks, PRO-ACT Recovery Walks, AFSP Out of the Darkness, Speak Up: Break the Silence, etc.)
  • Donate money to or volunteer with a local cause that focuses on mental illness awareness and de-stigmatization efforts.
  • If you are a health professional, you can continue your cultural competency education via resources such as U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Think Cultural Health.

At HPC, we strive to practice cultural humility and cultural competence in an integrated setting.

We have staff who are multicultural, multilingual, and trained in and dedicated to providing quality care to the patients we serve. We encourage staff members to build on their natural curiosity, continue their education, and collaborate with patients on plans of care that are culturally sensitive.

The Behavioral Health Team at HPC invites you to celebrate Minority Mental Health Month this July. Please join our efforts to bring our voices together to advocate for mental health and access to care for all.

Thoughts to Consider in the New Year

Post written by John Smart, LSCSW, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker

John SmartThe New Year can be a challenging time as well as a time for hope. Often, the New Year is associated with celebrations, resolutions, and higher expectations for ourselves, and life in general. This can be energizing, or it may feel overwhelming, especially for those of us whose spirits are weary from the pressures of the past year. For this reason, it is important to consider how we can recharge our spirts and nurture our well-being while looking for ways to grow in the coming year.

As we wind-down the holiday season and look ahead, we can take time to reflect on our strengths, aspirations and values. Questions to ask ourselves might be: How are my actions reflecting what has meaning to me? What am I grateful for? What have I enjoyed that also adds energy to my life? What am I doing that gives me a sense of purpose and what are my skills, talents and resources, and how do I plan to use them?

Health Resolutions

This may sound a bit idealistic, and challenging to put into action, but often we can discover answers to these questions when we ask ourselves why we would like to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. For instance, improving diet and exercising more is a very common New Year’s resolution, and one I happen to be considering. This is important to me because my health impacts other areas of life that have meaning, such as the amount of energy I have to enjoy the outdoors and get things done around the house. It also impacts the quality and quantity of time I have with friends and loved ones.

Why?

Keeping in mind why we are making healthier choices can impact how we do that in practical ways – we might exercise through enjoying nature on walks with friends, rather than telling ourselves we’re doing time on a treadmill as though it’s a punishment. Rather than trying to live on smoothies and salads, we might consider cooking healthy meals together with family, creating opportunities for conversation and making memories of collaborating around great recipes, or sharing laughter about the ones that don’t work out so well.

Be kind to yourself along the way.

Whatever your hopes and goals for the new year, please be kind to yourself along the way. Check-in with yourself often, celebrating your progress and successes, and asking yourself what support you might need when struggling to move ahead with goals. In life, we are all works in progress, and none of us can go it alone.

Mental Illness Awareness Week focuses on “Together for Mental Health”

By John Smart, LSCSW, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker

John SmartDuring Mental Illness Awareness Week, Sunday, Oct. 3 through Saturday, Oct. 9, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is promoting advocacy and awareness for people with serious mental illness (SMI) through its “Together for Mental Health” campaign. According to NAMI each day throughout the week, we will be raising the voices of people with lived experience to talk about SMI and the need for improved crisis response and mental health care.

Other advocacy and awareness events coinciding with Mental Illness Awareness Week are:

  • Tuesday Oct. 5: National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
  • Thursday Oct. 7: National Depression Screening Day
  • Saturday Oct. 9: NAMIWalks United Day of Hope
  • Sunday Oct. 10: World Mental Health Day

Why does mental illness awareness matter?

Mental health is a huge part of overall health and should be a priority for everyone, whether you have a mental health condition or not.

In its campaign for greater awareness of the impact of mental illness in the United States, NAMI shares some important facts:

  • One in 20 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year, but less than two-thirds get treatment.
  • One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • One in six U.S. youth aged six to 17 experience a mental health disorder each year.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the tenth leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
  • The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35 percent since 1999.
  • Annual prevalence among U.S. adults, by condition:
    • Anxiety Disorders: 19.1 percent (estimated 48 million people)
    • Major Depressive Episode: 7.8 percent (19.4 million people)
    • Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6 percent (estimated 9 million people)
    • Bipolar Disorder: 2.8 percent (estimated 7 million people)
    • Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4 percent (estimated 3.5 million people)
    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2 percent (estimated 3 million people)
    • Schizophrenia: <1 percent (estimated 1.5 million people)

Behind the Statistics

NAMI - Together for Mental HealthBehind the statistics there are countless stories of those impacted by serious mental illness. Limited resources for responding to mental health crises can have tragic results. In many cases ineffective crisis response results in traumatization of the person suffering from a mental health crisis, as well as traumatic impacts on loved ones, friends and crisis responders. In some cases, the crisis may lead to serious injury or death of the person experiencing the mental health crisis, and risk of injury or death of crisis responders. Communities, including many in the Kansas City region, are seeking to improve their responses to mental health needs through use of law-enforcement Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), mental health co-responders to assist police and the addition of social service workers to police departments.

The Effects of Mental Illness

The effect of mental illness on individuals, families and communities is more commonly experienced in the day-to-day lives of those impacted. This can be felt through isolation, loss of relationships, unemployment and erosion of the sense of purpose and direction we all hope to find in life. There is good reason to have hope for recovery though, and this hope is found in the same place the painful impact is felt. Through the strengths and resources found within each person, their families, communities, organizations, employers, churches and more, recovery does happen. The recovery process often includes professional help to support the development of effective coping skills and symptom management tools while individuals are working to build on their own strengths.

If you know someone who needs help and you’re not sure where to start, a bit of wisdom that was recently shared with me may be useful, “slow down and listen.” Many times, that is what is most needed as someone begins to work on their mental health recovery process.
John Smart LSCSW, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker

At HPC, we offer affordable in person and telehealth Therapy Services to Youth 12 and older, and adults.

Patients can schedule an appointment by calling 913-730-3664.

Or if you need to find professional help for a friend, family member or yourself, please see the additional resources below.

National and local resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255)
En Espanol 1-888-628-9454
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Mental Health America
https://mhanational.org/

Johnson County Mental Health
913-826-4200
Crisis Line 913-268-0156
https://www.jocogov.org/dept/mental-health/home

Health Partnership Clinic
Behavioral Health Services 913-648-2266
https://hpcks.org/

Community mental health centers are found throughout the United States.
To find the community mental health center nearest you in Kansas or Missouri:

Kansas
https://www.kdads.ks.gov/commissions/behavioral-health/services-and-programs/community-mental-health-centers

Missouri
https://dmh.mo.gov/behavioral-health/treatment-services/locating-services-treatment/community-mental-health-centers

July is Minority Mental Health Month 

You Are Not Alone

Cecilia Ponce

CECILIA PONCE, LSCSW BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CLINICIAN
Health Partnership Clinic

By Cecilia Ponce, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician 

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) has adopted “You Are Not Alone” as a moto for this year and Minority Mental Health Month. Throughout the month of July, NAMI will be sharing their Strength Over Silence mini-series, personal stories of lived experiences, blogs and other publications in hopes to forge a sense of connection in a socially distanced world.

 

Minority Mental Health

Minority Mental Health is unique in that we must address how culture, race and ethnicity may be both a risk factor as well as resiliency factor for the individual/group/community. As mentioned in years past, the goal of this designation is to improve access to mental health treatment, to help destigmatize mental health and to promote public awareness.

Some question how minorities might experience mental health and outcomes differently. It would be near impossible to discuss this without mentioning the effects of racism (overt and institutional), homophobia, ethnocentrism and discrimination on persons from minority groups. Language is powerful and creating an “othering” of a population is a double-edged sword of sorts.

You Are Not Alone

According to NAMI, mental illness doesn’t choose who is affected by it, but culture, race, gender, or sexual orientation can affect access to treatment, support and quality of care for many. Let’s change this.

At HPC, we are lucky to provide culturally-effective care in an integrated setting.

We have staff that are bicultural, bilingual, who are trained and dedicated to providing quality care. We encourage staff to build on the natural curiosity, continue their education and collaborate with patients on treatment plans and care.

The Behavioral Health Team at HPC invites you to celebrate Minority Mental Health Month this July. And let us all continue to work together to “strive to create and maintain environments that foster cultural humility, which are culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of all people.”

Clinic Now Offers Affordable Therapy Services

Tristen WinstonBy Tristen Winston, MA, PsyD, LP, LCAC, Licensed psychologist, Behavioral Health Director at Health Partnership Clinic

Health Partnership Clinic is now offering affordable in person and telehealth Therapy Services to youth, 12 and older, and adults.

Services include help with emotional and behavioral health concerns related to:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Grief/loss
  • Substance abuse
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Stress management for chronic health conditions
  • Relationship issues
  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes mental health management.

Services will be available in English and Spanish. Our specialized and credentialed therapists include myself, Cecilia Ponce, LSCSW, and Amy Gray, LSCSW. The clinic’s sliding fee discount program is based on income and household size.

Download the brochure: English | Spanish

To schedule an appointment or for more information, call 913-730-3664.

Health Partnership Clinic - Behavioral Health Therapy Services

APRIL is Autism Awareness Month!

Post written by Amy Gray, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician

April is Autism Awareness Month. Awareness month efforts promote knowledge and increase awareness of public health issues. April is the month to learn more about AUTISM!

WHAT IS AUTISM?

Autism is formally defined as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disability characterized by significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASD often communicate, behave and learn in different ways. Some people with ASD are gifted and some may be severely challenged. Some people with ASD may need help in their daily lives and others may need very little. ASD now includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome, which are conditions that were previously diagnosed separately.

HOW PREVALANT IS AUTISM?

Data and Statistics on ASD

While there are a lot of efforts to evaluate and treat Autism, the prevalence is difficult to assess. Estimates are used to extrapolate data of known cases to determine how prevalent ASD actually is.

Key findings from the 2020 Community Report from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network’s most recent report include:

  • About one in 54 or 1.85 percent of eight-year-old children were identified with ASD according to estimates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network
  • ASD is about four times more common among boys than among girls and occurs in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

New findings in the most recent 2020 report:

  • For the first time ADDM Network data found no overall difference in the number of black children identified with autism compared to white children. However, the number of Hispanic children identified with autism is still lower compared to white or black children.
  • More four-year-old children with ASD received evaluation by 36 months in 2016 (84 percent) than in 2014 (74 percent).

Additional Information

The CDC has a new data visualization tool that lets users map and graph ASD data. You can see that here.

For more information, visit the World Health Organization’s website.

Or check out the Autism Society website.

Take care of your mental health.

Take Care of Your Mental HealthIt’s perfectly natural to feel anxious, stressed or frustrated when there is uncertainty in your life. For some people, that mental toll may lead to pervasive anxiety or even depression. It’s been a stressful year for some, and it’s important to know, you are not struggling alone.

Consider these lifestyle changes to help you cope and better manage your symptoms and reach out to a professional for help when needed. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, consider seeking out a mental health professional for additional support.

Here are 5 tips for how to cope during stressful times.

Stay connected.
It’s OK to turn to friends, family or health care providers for emotional or other support. Set a time each day to call or check in with your loved ones. Reach out and reconnect with old friends you’ve lost touch with. You can also write and send letters to friends and family via mail or email.

Set boundaries.
While it’s important to have up-to-date, reliable information, you should limit your time watching and reading the news if it makes you feel anxious.

Keep busy.
Take Care of Your Mental HealthFind hobbies or activities that also can help you relax. Try deep breathing, stretching or meditation. Reading books, drawing or doing puzzles can also be calming.

Be prepared.
Make sure you know what medications and medical supplies you need. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if it’s possible to keep extra on hand. Plan ahead, so you know what food and household supplies you need. It can be reassuring to know that you have everything on hand in case of an emergency.

Live and Work Well LogoTake Care.  Find articles, self-care tools, caring providers, and more mental health and substance use resources at LiveandWorkWell.com.

For more information about the UnitedHealthcare KanCare Program click here.

Self-Care… In A Pandemic

Amy GrayBy Amy Gray, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician

Self-Care

Self-care almost always evokes an image for people, whether it be a hot bath, a vacation, or pampering in some way. Self-care is not one-size-fits-all and can come in all shapes and sizes. Some people are filled up by meditation or yoga, others prefer walking in the woods or journaling. Self-care requires time and attention and focus, is developed over time, and should be a part of our regular routine to keep ourselves healthy and mentally strong. Self-care is an act, a habit, or a practice.

There are several types or categories of self-care, including: Emotional, Mental, Physical, Pleasure, Sensory, Social, and Spiritual.

Emotional Self-Care Ideas

The website www.developgoodhabits.com identifies the following Emotional Self-Care Ideas:

Self care idea

Emotional Wellness

TeaEmotional wellness is difficult in our world in a regular year, yet during a pandemic year, the obstacles can seem monumental. Break things down into doable steps. Ask for help when needed. Cry if you need to, and use grounding to keep focused. There is no precedence for how you should respond in times like this, it is a pandemic and nothing about that is natural.

Physical self-care is important for mental and emotional health and aids in sleep and eating habits. Motivation might be hard to come by, start small and get moving. Social self-care allows us to connect with others. Finding ways to spend time with people (via social media apps, social distancing, etc.) is important. Spending time in prayer or at online church services can mitigate the loss of church family, church events and spiritual practices. In all areas important to you, try to make new traditions that feed your needs and raise your spirits.

…In A Pandemic!!

Stacked StonesIn the past year, many people have struggled due to the changes COVID19 has made to our daily lives. Our safety and security has been threatened by a very real virus, and mental health effects have been significant. An increase in anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug use, and relationship issues have been evident in the patients seen at Health Partnership. Patients who have never experienced anxiety and depression are reporting problems for the first time, and many patients with a history are reporting a significant increase in symptoms.

More than one-third of Americans have displayed clinical signs of anxiety, depression, or both since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The American Psychological Association (which typically issues an annual mental health survey) has been releasing a monthly report, Stress in America 2020: Stress in the Time of COVID-19.

Signs of BurnoutAccording to PEW Research, one-third of Americans (33 percent) have experienced high levels of psychological distress at some point during the extended period of social distancing undertaken to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. More than half (55 percent) of adults who describe their financial situation as poor have experienced high levels of distress, as have half of those who report having a disability or handicap that keeps them from fully participating in work, school or other activities.

It is important to normalize the effects a global pandemic, including widespread shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, remote-only school attendance and the loss of connection that people are experiencing. Weddings have been canceled or rescheduled. Funerals have been delayed or family members have been unable to travel to say goodbye. Baby showers and birthday parties and bar mitsvahs and graduations and anniversaries and holidays…the list goes on and on. In a global pandemic, the rules change, and “normal” is simplified and redefined. In a pandemic, the main goal is survival.

Dr. Joy Osofsky in Psychology Today writes: “Self-care is crucial to support health and mental health, which starts with establishing regular routines for this “new normal” environment that include getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, exercise and making connections virtually with family and friends.”

Helpful Hints for Surviving, or Even Thriving, in a Pandemic

Surviving or Thriving in a Pandemic

ADAPT: Individual self-care in a pandemic needs to adapt to the current circumstances. Work on making small changes, don’t try to change everything all at once. Set a daily or weekly goal and find JOY in celebrating the small wins and good efforts you make.

GRATITUDE: Practice gratitude by journaling 5 good things that have happened, and/or make sticky notes and place them on your bathroom mirror as a reminder of positive things happening.

PROPS: A bright light or light box are used for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and mimic daylight, which can be very helpful for people who get down during the dark winter months. As little as 10 minutes a day can help lift your mood. Finding light, in a light box, a conversation, or at the end of this very long pandemic tunnel, is critical.

JOY: Find some JOY….and celebrate everything!!! Celebrate getting the laundry done, getting out of bed, feeding yourself healthy food, and making time for self-care activities. Celebrating helps focus on success and progress. Practice gratitude and celebrate surviving the year 2020.

PRACTICE…PRACTICE…PRACTICE