For many people living with mental illness, the stress and circumstances surrounding COVID-19 can exacerbate symptoms due to social isolation, a lack of routine, fear, grief or an inability to meet basic needs due to job loss.
Kelly Davis, director of Peer Advocacy, Supports, and Services at Mental Health America, said in a phone interview, “We’re seeing a lot of struggling among people who live with depression around the changes in routine and the physical isolation. [We’re] seeing a lot of increased anxiety [in] folks with anxiety disorders.”
People living with eating disorders can be impacted because in addition to being around food constantly and not being able to exercise in the same ways as before, there is a lot of recent attention on social media about weight gain, Davis said.
“On one hand, [people talk] about how you need to use this time to lose weight and work out, and then on the other hand, [there are] a lot of jokes about weight gain and just a lot of talk about weight gain and body,” Davis said.
Most mental health professionals are offering online support, said Davis. However, talk-based online resources such as Zoom video calls can be challenging if there are other people in the same house or apartment, as those seeking resources may be nervous about other people overhearing their conversations.
Bridget Bucklin, Glenbrook North psychologist and assistant instructional supervisor for Special Education, said in a video conference that the Student Services Department provides virtual counseling services to students who were receiving support for mental health challenges prior to the start of E-Learning. The department has also been trying to identify other students who may need to be connected to support programs.
“We asked teachers for more feedback about students who they haven’t really heard very much from,” said Bucklin. “Our counselors, our deans, psychologists and social workers are reaching out to every one of those students and their families to check in … and figure out ways we can help.
“From what I can tell, it has been effective.
“I think we are getting a lot of people reaching out and asking for support, and we’ve been able to help a lot of students.”
Additional resources are listed on the GBN website and the district E-Learning website, including emergency resources, crisis hotlines and community agencies that provide counseling support for students and their families.
According to Davis, there are lots of opportunities for people to improve their mental health during quarantine, whether it is by having a more regular sleep schedule or using extra time to explore enjoyable activities.
For people struggling during this time, Davis said there are many resources and communities available who want to help and provide support.
“Hope is real,” said Davis. “And even if things are really hard and things are uncertain … we as a community … can really support one another.”