AMES, Iowa –The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound and lasting effect on the mental health and wellbeing of people across Iowa and around the world. Now that vaccinations are becoming widely available, many individuals are feeling a sense of relief that may be unfounded, said David Brown, behavioral health specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
“The warmer spring weather has improved our moods and we are able to enjoy the outdoors and become more active. Unfortunately, history has shown that significant mental health concerns continue long after a pandemic resolves,” Brown said.
“May is Mental Health Awareness Month and is a good reminder that we still need to stay focused on our mental health and resilience as we continue to battle to end the pandemic,” said Brown.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has several recommendations to build resilience during a pandemic.
- Recognize the signs of stress you or others may be experiencing, such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness, irritability, increasing substance use or routinely having trouble sleeping.
- Spend time outdoors, being either physically active or just relaxing.
- Connect with others through phone calls, texts, mailing letters or video chats.
- Take breaks from watching news, including social media.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Take breaks from work to stretch, exercise or check in with supportive colleagues, family members or friends.
- Do things you enjoy during non-work hours.
“We must remain vigilant and make an effort to follow these recommendations to help maintain resilience,” Brown said. “The underlying issues of isolation, lack of connection, economic concerns and general uncertainly will likely continue to affect mental health and substance usage for many months. We also need to be prepared to help others access mental health care and be ready to seek out resources for ourselves as well.”
Iowa Concern, offered by ISU Extension and Outreach, provides confidential access to stress counselors and an attorney for legal education, as well as information and referral services for a wide variety of topics. With a toll-free phone number, live chat capabilities and a website, Iowa Concern services are available 24 hours a day, seven days per week at no charge. To reach Iowa Concern, call 800-447-1985; language interpretation services are available. Or, visit the website, www.extension.iastate.edu/iowaconcern/, to live chat with a stress counselor one-on-one in a secure environment. Or email an expert regarding legal, finance, stress, or crisis and disaster issues.
COVID Recovery Iowa offers a variety of services to anyone affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual counselors and consultants provide counseling, family finance consultation, farm financial consultation, referral information and help finding resources for any Iowan seeking personal support. Iowans of all ages may join groups online for activities and learn creative strategies for coping with the effects of the pandemic. COVID Recovery Iowa will announce upcoming programs on the website and via all social media to help Iowans build coping skills, resilience and emotional support. To request support, go to www.COVIDrecoveryiowa.org.
National Alliance on Mental Illness of Central Iowa inspires to better the lives for central Iowans affected by mental illness. NAMI works to achieve this goal through support programs, educational outreach, and advocacy on local, state and national levels. Learn more at https://namici.org/about/.
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