HomeExaminerExaminer NewsResidents need to address mental health issues during crisis

Residents need to address mental health issues during crisis

With new concepts such as social distancing, quarantine and shelter in place a reality in New Jersey in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, some people may be at risk for anxiety, depression and extreme levels of stress as the number of positive COVID-19 cases and potential associated deaths rise.

“This is a normal response to a public health crisis like this. Although there are common stressors to us all, the pandemic affects each of us differently. People without a history (of a mental health condition) may feel increased stress and anxiety. Those individuals who live with a mental health condition may experience increased symptoms with the increased stressors,” said Maggie Luo, assistant director of NAMI NJ (National Alliance on Mental Illness), which is headquartered in North Brunswick.

While social distancing is a necessary measure of precaution, social distancing does not need to mean social isolation, Luo said.

“In times like this, it is even more important to reach out to our support network – family, friends, colleagues, religious groups, etc. – via phone calls, social media and virtual conferencing platforms. People who are dealing with a mental health condition are encouraged to reach out to their mental health providers and explore telehealth options,” she said.

The NAMI Family Support Group is a 60-minute support group for adult friends and family members, age 18 and older, of people with mental health conditions. Meetings will be at noon on Tuesdays and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.

The NAMI Connection Recovery Support Group is a 60-minute support group for adults, age 18 and older, with a mental health condition. Meetings will be at noon and 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.

Meetings begin the week of March 23. Attendance is limited to 12 people per meeting, first come, first served. If demand is high, there could be more sessions added.

“Online meetings are an effective and timely way to reduce social isolation and increase support when in-person meetings are not available. … NAMI organizations across the country and NAMI NJ are striving to continue serving families affected by mental illness in creative ways,” Luo said. “Our priority is to continue to provide education and support to individuals and families during this health crisis.”

Outside of meetings, there are activities residents can partake in when they are home, especially if they are alone.

“If someone is home alone, reach out to others. Just because you are alone in your home does not mean you are alone in life. Call friends, FaceTime family members. We are encouraging neighbors to check in on each other.

“You can find online communities through Facebook, or online support groups. NAMI NJ has started online support groups and there are a number of online resources that provide support,” Luo said.

Luo said people should get their emotional support system in place.

“Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible; take care of your basic needs and employ helpful coping strategies: rest during work or between shifts, eat healthy food and engage in physical activity.

“Stay connected with others and maintain your social networks. Have the emails and phone numbers of close friends and family at your fingertips. Stay connected via email, social media, video conference and telephone. Participate in a free online support group.

“Contact the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 that provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

“Have the number of several Warmlines (emotional support hotlines) at your fingertips. Call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. for mental health resources,” she said.

Gov. Phil Murphy, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey Department of Health and the United Ways of New Jersey have announced that NJ 211 has been activated to help handle COVID-19 related calls from New Jersey residents.

Residents can text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive text information and stay informed. To receive live text assistance, residents can text their ZIP code to 898-211.

These enhancements to 211 will supplement the existing COVID-19 hotline operated by the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

Additionally, the Department of Health has a COVID-19 website with resources including CDC updates, guidance for schools, colleges, businesses, long-term care facilities, health care professionals and public health professionals. The website is available at nj.gov/health/coronavirus

Local health departments, health care providers and medical facility staff should continue to contact the Communicable Disease Service at the New Jersey Department of Health with COVID-19 questions.

Further information is available at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

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