Even if an epidemic of mental illness is looming, counselors say that people are resilient and can strive to protect their emotional well-being.
Developing one’s own psychological tools helps, too. Given “the state of ambiguity and helplessness and fear,” Porteus said, “the best thing we can do is figure out how to tolerate the distress.”
When people are in crisis, he said, it’s helpful to go online to learn about “distress tolerance” skills, which involve accepting that some problems are beyond one’s control. Instead of becoming mired in feelings of unfairness and anger, people can learn healthier ways of thinking and coping when they can’t escape painful situations.
For those who have lost jobs, he suggests looking up interest inventories -- questionnaires that ask you to rate your enjoyment and interest in a wide variety of activities -- to explore career options. “You can figure out the kinds of things that you’re good at and start getting a sense of what your next steps might be."
Taking constructive steps can help to counteract a downward spiral, he said.
“People look at the pandemic and they tend to be drawn to the negative. If we can help shift people to look at the positive, it really helps because we know that neurons that fire together wire together,” Aston said. “We’re going to be able to see the positive more quickly.”
Article: Mental Health an Emerging Crisis of COVID Pandemic
Jonathan Porteus, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and CEO of WellSpace Health, Sacramento, CA.
Lan Nguyen, MA, suicide and crisis services program manager, Santa Clara County Suicide and Crisis Services, California.
Heather Aston, LMFT, program manager, San Diego Access and Crisis Line, California.
Lauren Ochs, MA, counselor, Provident Behavioral Health Crisis Hotline, St. Louis.
Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health: “The Coronavirus Pandemic.”
Well Being Trust: “Covid pandemic could lead to 75,000 additional deaths.”
MedCity News: “Seeing record numbers of patients, will telehealth companies keep them after the pandemic ends?”
Journal of the American Medical Association: “The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 and Physical Distancing.”
Kaiser Family Foundation: “KFF Health Tracking Poll - Late April 2020: Coronavirus, Social Distancing, and Contact Tracing.”
WebMD poll of 3,101 readers, May 3-4, 2020.