HOWELL – The coordinator of the Howell Township Municipal Alliance wants people to know there is mental health and substance abuse support available to them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since June 2019, the alliance has trained more than 70 community members and municipal professionals in mental health first aid. The alliance will resume offering mental health first aid training when the COVID-19 outbreak subsides.
Alliance coordinator Christa Riddle explained why mental health awareness is important during the pandemic. She said these stressful times are especially difficult for individuals who are in recovery from substance use disorders and alcoholism, and she said that stress can trigger a relapse.
“Mental health information, support and resources are critical during times of increased anxiety, uncertainty and fear, for adults and youth.
“What makes this time unique is that usually during a time of crisis, people come together to gather strength, reassurance and resiliency, but this pandemic requires social distancing and isolation. Feeling lonely and all alone can compound anxiety and depression,” Riddle said.
“The alliance’s goal is to provide our community members with plenty of mental health education and credible resources so they feel comfortable seeking assistance and know where to turn, should the need arise for themselves or a loved one.
“The important message is that even during social isolation, no one is alone, and that caring for your mental health is just as essential as taking care of your physical health,” she said.
“If you feel someone might need mental health assistance but don’t want to bring attention to the individual’s situation or further isolate them during this time, it is OK to just check in with a gentle tone and an expression of concern, such as, ‘How are you doing today? I’m feeling a little uncertain these days myself and I want to make sure everything is OK with those around me.’
“The key is to check in with a non-judgmental, caring question and to listen carefully and with your undivided attention if someone wants to talk about their feelings. Communication and listening are critical during times of heightened stress and it is reassuring to people to find that someone actually cares enough to check in and listen,” she said.
The acronym ALGEE suggests the following: A: Assess for risk of suicide or harm (call 911 if there is a risk); L: Listen non-judgmentally, with empathy and understanding; G: Give reassurance and information; E: Encourage appropriate professional help; and E: Encourage appropriate self-help and support strategies.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many people, especially those with pre-existing mental health disorders, will experience increased anxiety, depression and uncertainty, according to the alliance.
Getting proper nutrition, exercise, fresh air and a few moments of quiet to re-center the mind can help ease anxiety, as can chatting remotely with loved ones and participating in a hobby or a relaxing activity, according to the alliance.
Adults should remember to communicate properly with young people who may be confused, overwhelmed or feeling alone due to social isolation, according to the alliance.
Parents, caregivers and other involved adults should remain emotionally available, listen with empathy, share accurate facts and information about COVID-19, avoid adding stress to the situation and model positive behavior regulation, according to the alliance.
During a crisis or an emergency, call 911. The Howell Township Municipal Alliance website provides a list of mental health and substance use disorder resources.
To reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Distress Helpline, call 800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 800-273-8255. To reach the Crisis Text Line, text 741741. To reach the 2ndFLOOR Youth Helpline, text or call 888-222-2228.