Mental Health and Resilience in Time of COVID-19
#COVID-19 hit North Texas in March when Dallas issued a shelter-in-place order on 3/22/2020. It was followed by a state-wide order from Gov. Gregg Abbott on March 31. Each of us may have told ourselves “I’ve got this,” thinking that the restrictions would be short-term, after which life would return to normal. The mandates were intended to curb the rise in viral infections, but the virus is not abating and restrictions that would allow people to return to work continue. Confinement at home, contracting the disease, and income loss are just a few of the stressors North Texans are experiencing right now. Nearly half of North Texas adults who sheltered in place from March to June said the pandemic negatively affected their mental health, according to a report from the nonprofit Mental Health Connection. Among those most susceptible to COVID-19-related mental illness are older adults suffering cognitive decline or who experienced health stressors before the pandemic. Yet this group is not singularly affected. Parents of school-age children, front-line workers, healthcare providers, essential workers, hospitality workers–just to name a few–are showing signs of COVID-19-related emotional and mental despair that may have a long-term impact on their health.
Since late March, nonprofits and state public health organizations have published web-pages listing resources for North Texans looking for COVID-related mental health care. Many such sites ask users to take screening tests on their websites, instruct people to call the national disaster or suicide prevention hotlines, or just provide general self-care advice. Yet, most of these resources don’t connect users to a counselor. While these resources can help, those looking for personalized, long-term assistance can easily be frustrated.
Some people, who would want counseling, don’t seek it because of perceived barriers. Some of these barriers include:
- Economics: Counseling is perceived to be too expensive or the person lacks a means to pay for it
- Social stigma: Even today, some people think that working with a counselor is a sign of brokenness, weakness, a sign of defeat
- Time commitment for appointments: COVID has forced shutdowns, especially of schools, that now have parents assuming new and unfamiliar responsibilities (e.g., homeschooling children)
- Health: Everyone is at increased risk of developing COVID by going to public places, but this is particularly high risk if you already have compromised health issues
- Knowledge: If you have never worked with a counselor or therapist, you may not know what to expect from the experience or how to find a good one
Each of these barriers can be dealt with. Moreover, counseling is better than avoiding the consequences of ignoring your mental health. Over the next few weeks, I plan to post articles to explore each of these objections. Hopefully, it will help you find what Vincent Van Gogh described as ‘the peace within the storm.” The fifth barrier, I addressed in an article several years ago. I reprint it here. It comes with a worksheet to help you in the search for the right counselor. It is called: Choosing a Counselor that’s right for you. Feel free to click on the link and download it for your use.
Stay safe; stay well.