From long days of social isolation at home to working on the front line, the mental health challenges of the coronavirus pandemic have taken a toll on all ages.
“I’m actually scared for my life,” said Diamond Crawford, 22, of Detroit. “I have witnessed my close friends lose their family due to this virus. I personally have family that lost their jobs, and last week my co-worker tested positive for COVID-19. The world is suffering right now. It’s more than a virus, just the thought of it is messing with our mental health.”
Crawford says she has anxiety due to the pandemic. “I literally shake when I have to go out for essential things,” she explained. “I make sure that I have on a face mask, gloves, and I practice social distancing, but I suffer from anxiety attacks once I get into my car. I don’t want to be one of the next number of COVID-19 cases on the news.”
Dr. Cheryl Merchant, co-founder and mental health therapist of the LPC Institute in Southfield says, “The COVID-19 has impacted the way we live our lives in ways we never imagined. We feel uncertain about our health, the health of our loved ones, how long we will live in isolation from society, and our livelihoods,” she stated. “Many people have questions about how they may be able to cope with the ways they are feeling in response to COVID-19.”
It has always been important to focus on your mental health, but it’s really important now more than ever, says Merchant.
“It is normal to feel anxious in general,” she explained. “COVID-19 is an unseen predator that is dangerous globally because it has reached pandemic status. It is a highly contagious, infectious disease, it can be lethal, and it has claimed the lives of so many people – those we did not know, and many we knew who were loved ones and friends.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of writing this article, Michigan has a total of 33,966 confirmed COVID-19 cases and a total of 2,813 COVID-19 deaths.
“While it is necessary to be informed and updated on COVID-19, limiting our consumption of the COVID-19 news may help in alleviating the uncertain feelings we may be feeling. Watching 24/7 coverage of COVID-19 news, could elevate anxiety levels, when the goal is to alleviate and reduce anxiety,” Merchant clarified. “My recommendation is to limit the watching of the COVID-19 news to no more than two to three times a day.”
Patrece Lucas, counselor and life coach of Indigo Transitions and Coffee with A Counselor in Detroit, says it is important for people isolated by themselves to know that they are not alone during the state-wide shutdown.
“For now, it is important to do what we can to cope with not being able to connect with others physically. The best way to cope is to reach out to others and utilize the telephone, video calls, and social media,” Lucas said. “Join online support groups via websites and through social media. Even if you haven’t been attending church services, in a club, or engaging in other community events, now is the time to research one and start by utilizing their online and call-in services with the idea that you may then continue to connect with them after the COVID-19 social distancing practices.”
It’s also important for people to remember that children can have anxiety and get scared as well hearing about COVID-19, says Lucas.
“The number one thing parents can do for their children is acknowledge and address whatever the child may be experiencing which can only be achieved through having age-appropriate conversations explaining what is happening in our world and asking the child what they are experiencing,” says Lucas. “With children and ourselves it is important to encourage or talk about the future without giving concrete absolutes, but generalizations. An example is talking about how hard everyone is working to make sure school starts back in the fall versus saying school is going to start back on an exact date. This is necessary because it builds trust and teaches them and us to be okay with uncertainty and to concentrate on the effort for achieving better versus guaranteeing a particular outcome.”
People are asked to seek out mental health therapy during the pandemic.
“Most mental health clinicians are providing telehealth services using telephone calls, video conferencing and more. People can contact their insurance providers for ways to obtain services or Google directories such as Psychology Today for clinicians, including culturally specific sites such as Therapy for Black Girls, Melanin and Mental Health, Therapy for Black Men and so many more,” explained Lucas. “During the time of COVID there are also many free initiatives for mental health support and I encourage everyone to seek them out and utilize them even if you don’t think you need it, because it will help strengthen and create optimal mental health and protect our overall health.”