Middlesex United Way: Take care of mental health during pandemic

While dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19, it is understandably very stressful for people, and the mental health effects of COVID-19 are undeniable. While the healthcare system is struggling to keep up with this global pandemic, mental health treatment must also be kept in mind. Depression alone is one of the top leading causes of disability across the planet, and these circumstances are not helping.

Some people are completely isolated living alone, some are living in unsafe housing situations with nowhere to go, and many are living with overwhelming responsibilities related to teaching their kids at home while working full time. It is so important to remember that everyone’s situation is different during this time, and while we are all trying our best to stay afloat, the burden is incredibly hard for some.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include fear and worry about your own health and the health of loved ones, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

It is essential for us to at Middlesex United Way to continue to shine a light on mental illness and share with you some mental health services available in our community.

For people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now a free resource you can turn to. The ‘Hero Hotline’ was created by Community Health Resources, a non-profit behavioral healthcare agency in Connecticut. The hotline will connect you with a trained professional and refer you to resources for ongoing care and support. The number is 888-217-HERO. It is staffed seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday that parents and caretakers can get help with the stress and increased needs resulting from caring for their children during the pandemic. Those in need of assistance should call (833) 258-5011 and speak with trained professionals who will listen and talk to them about their concerns. Help can also be found online at www.talkitoutct.com.

Nationally, the Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990) provides immediate crisis counseling and help to individuals who are experiencing psychological distress as a result of a natural or human-made disaster, or incidents of mass violence. The Helpline is available 24 hours-a-day, every day. The Helpline connects callers to professionals from the closest crisis counseling center in the nationwide network of centers. Helpline staff will provide confidential counseling, referrals, and other needed support services. Individuals can call or text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746.

A resource especially helpful for children is the Mobile Crisis Intervention for Youth . MCI services for youth deliver a range of crisis response services to children and adults. MCI clinicians have mostly stopped going out to do mobile visits with youth due to COVID-19, but are still available for telephone intervention and support. To access MCI services for youth, dial 2-1-1 at any time of the day to be connected. For a list of the MCI programs that serve adults and youth, visit 211ct.org.

For older adults and seniors, AARP offers its Community Connections services. If feeling socially isolated, older adults can request a phone call from an AARP volunteer, Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by leaving their information at 1-888-281-0145 or submitting a request via their website. Community Connections also has a mutual aid group, which is an informal group of volunteers that band together to find effective ways to support those people most in need who live in their local community. Mutual aid can include picking up groceries, providing financial assistance, or lending emotional support to neighbors. Please visit https://aarpcommunityconnections.org for more information.

Here in Middlesex County, Middlesex United Way works with several partners that offer mental health services, including Child & Family Agency of Southeastern CT, which provides child and family mental health services; The Connection, Inc.’s Counseling Center; Gilead Community Services’ Outpatient Services; Women & Families Center’s Sexual Assault Crisis Services, which you can reach via their 24-hour emergency hotline; and Rushford’s Mental Health First Aid program, a public education program that helps the public identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

While we practice social distancing and applaud those around us doing amazing work, please also check in on your friends, family, and neighbors. It is critical that not only do we stay physically safe, but that we also self-assess our mental health, and familiarize ourselves with resources if needed. We are in this together.

Kevin Wilhelm is president and CEO of Middlesex United Way