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May 31, 2020

4/24/2020 11:58:00 AM
Managing mental health during COVID-19

By Angela Reiger
The American Medical Association tells its members to take care of themselves so they can take care of others. This seems like good advice for everyone, not just those on the front lines of the pandemic.
Boredom and frustration associated with isolation as a result of quarantine, as well as a loss of regular routine and income, can pose significant challenges for everyone, but particularly for those struggling with mental illness. Loneliness can lead to reflection, not only on what the pandemic means to the future, but also on the quality and expectations a person has in their own life before COVID-19, which in turn can lead to self-criticism, anxiety and disappointment. Too much time to think is simply not a good thing.
An article published in JAMA, written by Sandro Galea, MD, Raina Merchant, MD, and Nicole Lurie, MD, states, "large-scale disasters, whether traumatic (eg, the World Trade Center attacks or mass shootings), natural (eg, hurricanes), or environmental (eg, Deepwater Horizon oil spill), are almost always accompanied by increases in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders, domestic violence, and child abuse."
Domestic abuse calls have increased in some urban areas as much as 20 percent. A Bristol University sociologist, Marianne Hester, studying abusive relationships was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "There was every reason to believe that the restrictions imposed to keep the virus from spreading would have such an effect. Domestic violence goes up whenever families spend more time together, such as the Christmas and summer vacations."
When asked about how Iowa County numbers are looking, Mike Peterson of the Iowa County Sheriff's Department says, " At this time there has not been an uprising in reported domestics. Running numbers for disturbance for the last 30 days in 2019 and 2020 it is even at 27 responses. For more information or help or If you want to learn how you can help stop the violence, please call Family Advocates at (608) 348-5995 or 1 (800) 924-2624. Domestic situations have guidelines set by state statute, so we follow those guidelines, in pandemic or no pandemic. "If you are in a situation or need help please call 911. A quick internet search can give you many resources on how you can also get help, if you don't want law enforcement involved."
Peterson adds, "When it comes to mental health/welfare checks, we have seen about 13 more calls this year over last year. We are following our normal procedures, working with Unified Community Services, to get the best possible outcome for the person in crisis. A really good link that is focused on Southwest Wisconsin is If there is an immediate crisis, please call 911 and we will help guide you to more resources."
The National Institute of Mental Health has some suggestions for dealing with uncomfortable emotions:
• Feel your feelings and observe your reactions. Use coping strategies like exercise and/or meditation to deal with those feelings.
• Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
• Make sure to get enough rest.
• Take breaks from news and social media.
• Engage in hobbies and activities you enjoy.
• Set priorities and keep to as regular a schedule as possible.
• Stay in contact with friends and family while respecting social distancing.
• Check-in with yourself often and seek help when you need it.
• In an emergency
* Call 911
* Journey Mental Health Center, 608-280-2600,
* National Suicide Hotline, 1-800-273-8255
* Iowa County Emergency Hotline, 1-800-362-5717
• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline:
* Call 1-800-985-5990 (TTY 1-800-846-8517)
* Text TalkWithUs to 66746
• National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Find Help
* Visit
• National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224

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