Utahns need to take care of their mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, state health officials say, and fear of the coronavirus shouldn’t stop anyone from seeking care.
“Providers have the ability to meet with patients virtually and facilities are taking abundant and effective precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — it is safe to seek professional help,” a new state report on Utahns’ mental health said.
[Read more: Experts question the state’s report that says mental distress hasn’t significantly increased during the pandemic.]
Among the resources it offers:
• If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the UNI CrisisLine at 801-587-3000.
• Other crisis resources and crisis-related telephone hotlines (suicide, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse) are available on this page at utahsuicideprevention.org; find more information on the state’s coronavirus pages.
• Behavioral health services are open for care and those experiencing mental health or substance use concerns. Utahns can get help by contacting their insurance provider or visiting this map.
The department’s new report also includes tip for protecting your mental health during the pandemic.
Socialize more — as long as it’s done safely, such as through phone calls or video calls, suggests Michael Staley, who tracks and researches suicide within the Utah Department of Health.
Maintaining relationships is a good way to improve mental health, and allows you to watch out for friends and loved ones who may be exhibiting warning signs of poor or deteriorating mental health, he said. Those signs can include talking about suicide or death, increased substance use, frequent irritability and anger, onset of depression or anxiety, and withdrawing from friends and family, the report said.
Other ways it suggests supporting your own mental health:
• Read something uplifting. Be discerning in your exposure to news media and find your balance between being informed and stepping away.
• Connect with friends and loved ones via phone, email, text messaging, or through “face to face” platforms such as Skype or FaceTime. Acknowledge your feelings and talk to a friend or loved one about them.
• Take a break and go outside. Get some physical activity daily.
• Spend time in person in groups of fewer than 10 people while maintaining good physical distancing (6 feet apart) and/or wearing masks.
Children may have different mental health needs stemming from the pandemic, the report said. Younger children may withdraw or become clingy, have stomach aches or changes in sleeping habits. Older children may argue with others or disengage from family and friends. The report’s advice:
• Be open, honest, and age appropriate. Your children have already heard and seen information about things that are happening. Try to limit that and have them check with you to help them understand myth from fact.
• Play with your children and look for themes of fear or danger where you can be reassuring, comforting, supportive and shift to positive outcomes. Practice controlled breathing or progressive muscle relaxation with them.
• Use a journal or feelings tracker with them. Help them focus on what we can change and practicing letting go of what we can’t. Keep routines and schedules, including school, homework, social time and positive family time.
• Model the importance of self-care.
Traditional sources of support for parents are also diminished with COVID-19, the report noted, suggesting Utahns check on friends, neighbors and co-workers who have children.
“Offer to help. A kind word of understanding or a simple smile can go a long way in helping struggling parents cope,” it said. “It is extremely important for all of us to act as engaged bystanders.”