Saturday, March 28, 2020

Advice from the mental health community

Compiled by Christine Osmundson

CB State of Mind was approached by the Crested Butte News and asked what we are doing to help manage mental health concerns during the coronavirus outbreak, how we are working together as a community to help those in need and what trends we are seeing.

As a mental health provider who lived in New York City and provided disaster relief counseling through the American Red Cross during 9/11, I witnessed an outpouring of help from local New Yorkers who came together in ways never imagined. There is no comparing this virus to 9/11, but the human kindness looks very similar. Their inclination to go out and help in any way they could was unprecedented—anything from striking up conversations with strangers in a city park to donating an abundance of money, water, food and supplies were ways they sought to become more resilient and be present for one another.

We are a different community from New York City. We care deeply about our people and have collectively come together in creative ways to address this pandemic. Some of my observations include watching a local individual shovel a walkway outside a store for a woman trying to get around in her wheelchair. Neighbors and friends reaching out through a group text asking how they can help, i.e., groceries, getting each other’s mail, picking up prescriptions, to dropping off cookies on each other’s doorsteps! Witnessing our children engage in spontaneous and creative play outside, i.e., building snow forts and kicker jumps to sledding down a random hillside are all things created out of their own imaginations that feels free and fun for them.

I was struck late Sunday evening when a firework display happened outside my window. Bringing the Fourth of July early to Crested Butte when everything else is cancelled or postponed was clever yet risky. Lastly, thank goodness for the Nordic Center as they have come up with a system that allows locals to get outside with their families and friends, thus leaving us to appreciate that we are living here and not New York.

Getting in touch with our creative selves is one way to manage anxiety and depression. This may be the only time in our lives where we are forced to slow down, be present and not production-focused, which is counter-intuitive to our culture. With a lockdown looming over us, we need to prepare to be still and do less. Immersing in this creative energy gives us an opportunity to look within leading us to more internal happiness and joy in our lives.

Reaching out to our CB State of Mind (CBSOM) therapists and volunteers, together with Gunnison Valley Health and community members, here are some of their responses:

—Garland Middelton, a private practice provider and member of CBSOM, says, “In this time of uncertainty and change in routine, try these tips: take this one day at a time. Find something of a goal to complete each day. This time does not have to be centered on writing that novel you’ve been meaning to write (but it can be!) This is a time to slow down, and check in with yourself. Gentleness with self, kindness to others, these are the things we can control.”

—According to Marcie Telander, “Not in our lifetime have we experienced this kind of Pause and Poise.” She says, “Clients coming out of GVH who have been quarantined have a deep need and request to be of service.” She says, “It has been meaningful for clients to focus their immediate attention on action steps—nothing is too small—on getting groceries and dropping them off for the self-sequestered folks, picking up prescriptions and children’s products for others.” We have a responsibility to manage our health first, and then proceed with support of families, friends and extended community.

—Kelly Banas, another private practice provider and CBSOM therapist, has written a wonderful article, “How to Manage your Mental Health in the Face of the Coronavirus” (www.honeybook.com/risingtide/coronavirus-mental-health). She says she is beginning to see acute anxiety, fear and worry about the future becoming tangibly real as we begin to name what’s happening and the uncertainty we feel with no concrete expectations on how long it will last. She also says, “It’s important to be flexible, open and creative about connecting differently and accept this as our present reality instead of resisting it.”

Darlene Egelhoff, another private practice therapist in town, discusses the importance of supporting ourselves biochemically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. In turn this helps to support a robust immune system, better manage our emotions and stay in the present moment and recognize what we have to be grateful for. Things can always be worse—focus on what we do have and what we can do.

—GVH peer support specialist Joe Peterson is available to talk to anyone in our community needing support. He can be reached at (970) 596-8182. He says, “Taking care of your emotional health during this time will help you think more clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

CBSOM will be doing a pilot launch of its Therapy Scholarship program during this time if needed. With the support of the Katz Amsterdam Foundation, we will be able to offer up to six scholarships for up to 10 sessions each in the first six months. Please contact Meghan Dougherty for more information at mdougherty@cbstateofmind.org or call (970) 596-4698. Don’t need counseling, yet want to help those in need of free counseling? Please make a donation to www.cbstateofmind.org now.

We have noticed a trend to telehealth that currently corresponds with the school closures. Clinicians and clinics are using video conferencing, HIPPA-protected platforms and/or audio phone sessions. According to the Center for Mental Health, if you are an established client or one who has telehealth capabilities who’s not requiring medication or a medication change, then you are able to attend sessions over the phone, similar to what we are seeing with our private practice providers in Crested Butte and Gunnison.

Most clients are feeling relief with telehealth, as it allows them access to mental health services in the comfort of their home while minimizing the risk of infecting themselves or others. We are also understanding from a few clients that they prefer a more traditional method of face-to-face sessions, thus waiting for the pandemic to dissipate and returning to in-office appointments.

We don’t see mental health as a business that is slowing down. Rather, we are seeing an upsurge of increased access to mental health needed to address those having difficulty managing their symptoms of anxiety.

As a mental health provider in the community, I have heard from clients and community members asking, “How do I manage my own anxiety or the anxiety of my child?” or about “my “feelings of depression” or “loneliness and boredom.”

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