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During his daily press briefing on COVID-19 in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took a moment to focus on an often-forgotten aspect of the pandemic: mental health. Cuomo announced that 6,175 mental health professionals have signed up to provide free online mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is increased anxiety for everyone," said Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of NAMI.
Every day the news sounds overwhelming. And staying at home might worsen symptoms of loneliness or depression. “People want to get support during this very tumultuous time,” Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer at NAMI told TODAY. “Everybody is vulnerable to (COVID-19). There's no population that is immune to this. It’s important to keep in mind that we're all in this together and you're not alone.”
Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer, provides an on-air interview for the BBC World News London evening edition on coping with physical distancing and social isolation due to COVID-19.
Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression are likely to spike among Americans in the coming weeks because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic. Experts, however, are particularly worried about people who are predisposed to depression and anxiety. NAMI recommends maintaining a sense of normality and routine that mirrors life’s daily patterns and practices.
In the face of indefinite isolation, contagion, financial uncertainty, and with no return to normality in sight, coronavirus is taking its toll on our collective mental health. “If you’re losing sleep over what’s happening or you’re unable to concentrate on anything other than the risk...you should probably consider [lowering] your dose of media to once a day,” says Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of NAMI. Exercise and helping others may also give you a happiness boost and sense of purpose.
An estimated 1 in 5 people in the U.S. suffer from mental illness, and 1 in 25 from severe mental illness, according to NAMI. "If you already have an anxiety disorder...or unstable housing, or you're already isolated, this is going to compound your problems," said Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of NAMI. "Even though we are distancing ourselves physically, we should not be distancing ourselves socially...this collective crisis should bring people together in spirit and support if not in proximity," Katherine Ponte, NAMI-NYC board member said.
"We have seen an uptick [in calls to the NAMI hotline] and we’re beginning to track the calls related to COVID-19," Dawn Brown said. One caller was grieving a loved one who died of the disease in Japan, while another reported thoughts of suicide over concerns they would lose their job. Some callers have unstable housing or are homeless, while others are smokers, a group that is at a high risk for COVID-19. “We’ll weather this,” Brown said. “Strength and resilience is what will get us through.”
The coronavirus pandemic is anxiety-inducing and this article provides tips to navigate the associated stress. Hopefully you are able to hunker down at home for the next couple weeks and practice "social distancing" to limit the spread of COVID-19. But canceling plans and hanging at your apartment can be lonely and just plain weird. While you're working from home, "a routine that mirrors the office life's daily patterns and practices can be helpful," according to Katrina Gay, National Director of Strategic Partnerships at NAMI.
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741