The Morning Call

Men­tal health tools to help cope with COVID-19

- Michael W. Slack is pres­i­dent/CEO and Dr. Matthew Ko­val is chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of Kid­sPeace, based in Sch­necksville. Health · Health Tips · Anxiety · Mental Health · Medicine · Society · Lifestyle · Healthy Living · Depression · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · United States of America · Allentown · Lehigh Valley · Bethlehem · Mental Health America · Mt. Pocono

A re­cent re­port from Men­tal Health Amer­ica and the Surgo Foun­da­tion named Al­len­town and Read­ing among 13 Amer­i­can cities where cit­i­zens must cope with both high lev­els of vul­ner­a­bil­ity to the coro­n­avirus and an el­e­vated level of poor men­tal health.

As pub­lic health ex­perts de­bate the like­li­hood of a “se­cond wave” of COVID-19 in­fec­tions, our men­tal health ex­perts at

Kid­sPeace al­ready are see­ing another kind of se­cond wave in our pro­grams for strug­gling kids and adults.

Re­fer­rals to

Kid­sPeace Chil­dren’s

Hos­pi­tal in Ore­field are surg­ing; on a sin­gle day this month the fa­cil­ity had to turn away nearly

50 chil­dren re­ferred to it, be­cause we sim­ply didn’t have room.

Dozens of Le­high Val­ley and Mon­roe County res­i­dents and fam­i­lies in cri­sis are brav­ing the pan­demic to take ad­van­tage of free walk-in men­tal health as­sess­ments at Kid­sPeace’s out­pa­tient of­fices in Al­len­town, Beth­le­hem and Mount Po­cono.

And traf­fic to TeenCen­, our web-based ther­a­peu­tic sup­port re­source for teens and youth, has dou­bled from a year ago — with lit­er­ally hun­dreds of young peo­ple sub­mit­ting ques­tions and con­cerns to be ad­dressed by the site’s coun­selors.

And yes, this in­creas­ing need is tied to COVID-19 — anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion over fears of con­tract­ing COVID-19 or hav­ing loved ones sick­ened, the pain of iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness, the in­abil­ity to cope or man­age one’s emo­tions amid the over­whelm­ing im­pact of the pan­demic on every part of our lives.

As a com­mu­nity iden­ti­fied as vul­ner­a­ble to men­tal health chal­lenges, we

need to rec­og­nize this fact: Whether or not a new wave of phys­i­cal in­fec­tions is com­ing, the wave of men­tal health is­sues re­lated to COVID-19 is al­ready here.

So what can we do about it? At Kid­sPeace, we think the an­swer to that ques­tion may lie in heed­ing lessons of the pan­demic’s early days.

Last spring we all learned the acro­nym PPE (per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip

ment) — as well as the hard fact that we didn’t have enough of it on hand to meet the ex­plod­ing de­mand. As a so­ci­ety, we were not pre­pared with the tools we needed to com­bat COVID-19, and many thou­sands of our cit­i­zens paid a tragic price for that fail­ure.

But we can learn from that fail­ure to ad­dress the men­tal health com­po­nent of the pan­demic.

In the spirit of PPE, we’ve as­sem­bled a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions we’re call­ing “MPE” — Men­tal health Pro­tec­tive Equip­ment. These tools can help in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies build re­siliency and man­age the stress of the pan­demic. They in­clude:

Good sleep and good nu­tri­tion: Healthy be­hav­iors like keep­ing a regular sleep­ing rou­tine, mak­ing sure to eat the right foods, and stay­ing hy­drated all have a demon­strated im­pact on your men­tal well­ness.

Pos­i­tive cop­ing skills: Jour­nal­ing, ex­er­cise and mak­ing time to be out­doors are ex­cel­lent ways of re­liev­ing stress. Equally im­por­tant is avoid­ing un­healthy cop­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like al­co­hol use, avoid­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions with oth­ers, or dwelling on neg­a­tive self-image.

Lim­its on ex­po­sure to me­dia: It’s easy to be over­whelmed by con­stant news up­dates and cov­er­age on tra­di­tional and so­cial me­dia that can in­ter­fere with your ef­forts to re­main fo­cused on pos­i­tive as­pects. Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the pos­si­bil­ity of vi­car­i­ous trauma that can oc­cur when you watch trou­ble­some sto­ries on the news over and over.

“Help­ing” re­la­tion­ships: The pan­demic may have cut off your ac­cess to fam­ily or friends who­help you re­main grounded and men­tally healthy; you need to make the ef­fort to main­tain those con­nec­tions by phone, Zoomvideo con­ver­sa­tions, texts — what­ever works best for you. This is espe­cially im­por­tant for chil­dren and youth, who need the com­mu­ni­ca­tion with their loved ones and trusted friends more than ever dur­ing this cri­sis.

Ac­cess to men­tal health care: If you are fac­ing a cri­sis, rec­og­nize that there are re­sources avail­able to you through in­sur­ance cov­er­age, em­ployee as­sis­tance pro­grams, or out­reach like the Kid­sPeace walk-in as­sess­ments and TeenCen­tral. com. Iden­ti­fy­ing these op­tions ahead of time means you or a loved one can get help more quickly when needed.

Fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing our own “stock­pile” of MPEwill help us be bet­ter pre­pared not only as in­di­vid­u­als, and not only for fac­ing our own per­sonal is­sues, but also for meet­ing the sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges our com­mu­nity will face re­sult­ing from COVID-19.

 ?? BRITTAINY NEW­MAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES ?? Ni­cole Di­Maio in her Brook­lyn apart­ment Sept. 30. Re­mote learn­ing, lock­downs and pan­demic un­cer­tainty have in­creased anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion among ado­les­cents, and height­ened con­cerns about their men­tal health.
BRITTAINY NEW­MAN/THE NEW YORK TIMES Ni­cole Di­Maio in her Brook­lyn apart­ment Sept. 30. Re­mote learn­ing, lock­downs and pan­demic un­cer­tainty have in­creased anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion among ado­les­cents, and height­ened con­cerns about their men­tal health.
 ??  ?? Matthew Ko­val
Matthew Ko­val
 ??  ?? Michael W. Slack
Michael W. Slack

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