It will become important for many to go beyond the boundaries of a small social circle of loved ones to limit the anxiety and depression that can come with these pandemic days.
They will need help from a professional, maybe for the first time.
If so, you won’t be alone. Univera Healthcare this month released a study that showed 40% of members who used telehealth in recent years did so to connect for mental health support.
When is it time to seek extra support?
When you have a growing inability to get through your day.
“If you are sleeping way too much or not sleeping at all,” psychotherapist Kathy Calabrese said. “If you are not eating or eating way too much. If you aren't showering or you're not practicing the minimal amount of self-care.
“If you find yourself incredibly angry and you're beginning to strike out verbally, even physically, that's a clear sign,” she added. “I call it reactive anger. The anxiety level is sky high and you need help.”
Calabrese suggested starting with Mental Health Advocates of Western New York, formerly the Erie County Mental Health Association. The nonprofit agency (mhawny.org) provides information for those who can use a lift, as well as their families. Staff also is available weekdays by phone at 886-1242.
“Anxiety is basically fear running rampant within us,” Calabrese said. “People can't see clearly or think clearly. My job is to help people feel more grounded, less scattered, less afraid, and to understand that we will get through this.”
Another signal you can use some help: If a loved one expresses concern.
Calabrese encouraged those who feel overwrought to reach out to a trusted friend or loved one. Those who believe someone they care about needs extra support should strike up a conversation during a quiet moment – and be kind if rejected.
“Ask the question, ‘Are you worried about yourself?’ Say, ‘I'm concerned about you,’” she said. “‘What do you think?’ So no judgment, no labeling, no criticism. Ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ Assure them.”
Mental health specialists can help people reframe how someone approaches fear, anger and other emotions which can lead to bad choices that can worsen during a crisis, said Brian Costello, a counselor with Core Mental Health Counseling.
Costello sees patients with a variety of needs, including those challenged by addiction.
“A silver lining approach isn’t really helpful right now,” Costello said. “I don't think we’re there yet. But there is some potential benefit to being cooped up inside.”
Start with the understanding that you’re limiting contact for the health and safety of others – and that temptations also will be lessened. Take advantage of the opportunity to feel more secure.
“We live in this very addicted culture,” he said, “but right now, for many people, their main ways of coping or avoiding have been removed. People can’t to the go to the bars. They can't go to a casino. They can’t go shopping.”
He and Calabrese stressed that now can be a time to build stronger relationships with the ones we love, learn new ways to address past traumas that shape our behaviors, and accept that the time we have left on this planet is limited, so it’s worth the effort to live it soberly and make it count.
“I think especially in the context of addiction, it’s really important for people to connect with people,” Costello said. “I always say that drugs and alcohol are like a synthetic human connection, that really what we're looking for is human connection.”
Before reaching for a harmful substance, reach out to a friend by phone, FaceTime or Skype, he recommended. If the struggle intensifies, reach out to a recovery support group or a mental health care provider, Costello said.
Sadly, counselors know that everyone won’t see this time as an opportunity, especially those with serious mental health conditions or in crisis.
If it nears the point when someone appears a danger to themselves or others, it’s time to reach out any time to Crisis Services at 834-3131 or call 911.
Otherwise, the following resources can build a bridge to better mental health:
24-hour Addiction Hotline: 831-7007
24-hour Erie County Domestic Violence Hotline: 862-HELP (4357)
24-hour Emergency Mental Health Mobile Response Services (for 18 and over): 834-3131
Spectrum Crisis & Re-Stabilization Emergency Services (CARES): 882-4357; for youth and their families and caretakers. Its new urgent care clinic is open from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. People are welcome to drop in or call 539-6743 for more information.
Alcoholics Anonymous: 598-4827, aa.org; the website can help you find a support group, many of which have moved online.
Buffalo Area Narcotics Anonymous Helpline: 878-2316, nawny.org; the organization can help you find a support group, many of which have moved online.
Best Self Behavioral Health: 884-0888, bestselfwny.org.
BryLin Behavioral Health: 886-8200, 632-5450, brylin.com
Catholic Charities: 856-4494, ccwny.org
Child and Family Services: 842-2750, cfsbny.org
Christian Counseling Ministries of WNY: 632-3200, ccmwny.org
Community Health Center of Buffalo: 986-9199, chcb.net
Dale Association: 433-1886, daleassociation.com
Endeavor Health Services: 895-6700, ehsny.org
Evergreen Health: 847-2441, evergreenhs.org/covid-19/
Compeer of Greater Buffalo: 883-3331, Ext. 314 or email email@example.com; mental health peer support
Horizon Health Services: 831-1800; horizon-health.org
NAMI Helpline: 226-6264; namibuffalony.org
Spectrum Health and Human Services: 539-5500; shswny.org
Mental Health Advocates of WNY Resources Guide: eriemha.org/Community-Resource-Guide.pdf