As part of our April blog series on the mental health implications of COVID-19, we’re featuring questions and answers with two of Rudoy Medical’s mental health practitioners, Christine Chollak, NP, and Tessa Zamponis, NP. In this article, we’ll focus on the increased need for mental health due to COVID-19, along with suggestions on how to talk to your children about the illness and how to determine when you or a loved one should seek professional help. Again, please join us in thanking all of the mental health practitioners offering support during this trying time.
Q: Are you seeing an increased incidence of patients seeking help for mental health concerns due to the COVID-19 outbreak? If so, what types of concerns do people have?
We are being contacted more frequently for intakes, and people are definitely experiencing increased anxiety. In addition, we are hearing a lot of people report difficulty sleeping, which is a common symptom of both anxiety and depression. People are most concerned with their health and safety staying in NYC. They are very preoccupied with how long this will last but often even more concerned with what life will look like after the virus is contained. Will there be jobs? Will they be able to provide for their families? Most concerns revolve around safety issues and the financial repercussions of COVID-19.
Q: Many people are wondering how to talk to their children about the COVID-19 situation. Do you have any suggestions?
Remember that children react to how, what, and the way things are said differently than adults do. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Children pick up cues from conversations you have with them and others, so be mindful of body language.
- Patiently listen to what they say, and allow them to ask questions.
- Avoid using words that might blame others and lead to stigma.
- Remember that the virus can make anyone sick. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
- Pay attention to what children see, hear, or read on television, radio, or online.
- Reduce the amount of screen time for children focused on COVID-19. Too much information on any one topic can lead to anxiety and worry.
- Provide information to children that is honest and accurate. Give information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
- Talk to children about how some stories about COVID-19 on the internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
- Teach children every-day actions to reduce the spread of germs, things that they can do to help them feel a bit more in control.
- Stay calm and keep information simple.
- Reassure children that health and school authorities are working very hard to keep everyone safe and healthy.
- Teach do’s and don’ts at home, school, and play areas that they can understand.
Q: When should people seek assistance from a professional mental health practitioner to help them deal with the current situation?
This varies from person to person. However, there are some red flags, signs, and symptoms that can indicate the need for mental health treatment. These include:
- Worsening of pre-existing symptoms related to stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Constant obsessive, intrusive, ruminating thoughts that cannot be controlled. This can include thoughts related to the virus, like contracting it, getting quarantined in even more terrible conditions, spreading it to others, fear of self or loved ones dying, and anxiety about not having access to treatment.
- Severe physical anxiety symptoms like heart palpitations, difficulty breathing or breathlessness, chest pain, headache, blurred vision, or tremors.
- Headaches, back aches, chest pain, or other vague psycho-somatic symptoms with no identifiable medical cause.
- Negative thoughts, sense of impending doom, irritability, mood swings, or feeling very low or on edge all the time.
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and mental fatigue. Occasionally these feelings can lead to repetitive behaviour that includes constant checking, cleaning, hoarding (items for the house, face masks, medication, hand sanitizers), increased hand-washing/bathing, or obsessive reading and watching TV, news, browsing social media, or the internet for further information on the topic. Thus there is a disturbance in sleep pattern or appetite, difficulty with focus, concentration or attention span, inability to follow daily schedules, and eventually a lapse in functionality.
- Untreated mental health symptoms can promote varied forms of substance abuse such as alcohol, drugs, or excessive smoking to cope with symptoms.
Any one of the above scenarios are signs that someone should seek help.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental, emotional, or social challenge, call us today to make an appointment with our therapy team.
Rudoy Medical does not provide crisis services and is not staffed to respond to people in crisis. If you or someone you love are in crisis, below are some resources that may be helpful.
- If you are in danger or are having a health- or mental health-related emergency, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
- If you are experiencing a crisis, text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to reach a trained crisis counselor with the Crisis Text Line.
- If you or someone you love are contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), En Español 1-888-628-9454, for support.