CANTON After staying, and in many cases working from home, for the past couple of months, it may be a difficult change to go back to socializing and working outside of the house. The Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR) offers some tips below for making the transition.
John Aller, PCC, LICDC and executive director of StarkMHAR said that the agency has seen an uptick in anxiety and stress related mental health issues throughout the stay at home order issued because of the spread of the COVID19 virus.
“We have been seeing a steady increase in our calls since a week or so after the stay at home was issued,” Aller said. “We also expect to see an uptick in calls when people start going back out and back to working in their workplace.”
He added that any natural disaster will cause an uptick in mental health issues and demand for services because of how such a traumatic event effects emotions.
“This situation is a traumatic experience and we are all collectively experiencing the traumatic event and the increase in demand for services is related to those feelings,” said Jen Richeson, MEd, LPC and system development coordinator at StarkMHAR.
Both Aller and Richeson said the situation is creating additional stress and anxiety and some people are dealing with depression, some are dealing with anger and some with substance abuse.
“In regular times when we get calls about stress, anxiety and substance abuse, we recommend that people get out and interact with others. That’s what the 12 step meetings are about interacting with others. This situation is the exact opposite because it requires everyone to isolate themselves from others,” Aller said.
Aller said the agency’s goal is to get people services quickly and one way they have been doing that is through telehealth. He also said the 12 step programs are starting to do group meetings through Zoom.
“We encourage people to use Facebook or with the nicer weather to meet with friends or family outside of the home, maybe at a park,” Aller said.
Richeson said the telehealth option has created an increase in services, too. She said the telehealth will continue after the pandemic subsides because it has reduced barriers to getting services such as lack of transportation or childcare.
Aller and Richeson said returning to work is another significant adjustment or transition people are experiencing in a relatively short time frame. People will go back to juggling responsibilities (housework, children, etc.) again during this transition, just as they did in March when the pandemic was ramping up and that is a lot of change for a lot of people in a short amount of time.
Plus, some industries are responding to significant changes in health and safety requirements with short notice. For example, childcare providers are faced with regulations that may limit the number of children they can accept, thus impacting families trying to return to the workforce.
With some of the restrictions being lifted going forward, StarkMHAR recommends the following tips for those Stark County residents returning to work and working away from home:
• Remember there are so many different experiences during all of this, and no two people are experiencing this the same way so be patient with yourself and with others. We are all learning and adjusting to new things.
• In Stark County, most of the Behavioral Health providers have been open during the outbreak to see people as needed. Additionally, they are able to provide Telehealth services for those who are not able to do in-person sessions. Stark County residents are still able to access needed behavioral health services and are encouraged to seek those services when needed.
• There are online recovery support groups available, through NAMI, Foundations and AA that are also accessible online.
• The Stark County Mobile Response Team is in operation and can safely respond to calls anywhere in the county, 24/7. The Mobile Response Team is comprised of a team of professionals trained in crisis intervention, information and referral. The team will provide mobile behavioral health services in the home and other community settings. Some reasons for calls include parental struggles, feelings of isolation, concerns for a neighbor, suicidal ideation, substance use concerns, and more. Call 330-452-6000 for assistance.
Some specific ways to manage COVID-19 related stress:
• Get information from a trusted resource like coronavirus.ohio.gov
• Limit media exposure – get the info you need, then disconnect
• Use technology like Zoom or Teams when able to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues.
• Vsit our Coronavirus-COVID-19 page at www.starkmhar.org for more information