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How to conquer COVID-19′s impact on mental health

Central Louisiana Human Services District’s Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling Program here to help
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 6:25 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 at 10:46 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The coronavirus pandemic can be draining both physically and mentally, but mental health professionals want you to know there is help if you need it.

Dr. David Holcombe with the Office of Public Health Region Six said, “It’s not their fault that there’s a pandemic.”

According to Holcombe, it’s important to take care of yourself. He recommends getting adequate rest, doing things you enjoy, but stay very aware of how the pandemic can wear on you psychologically. If you’re feeling the strain of the pandemic mentally, there are counselors to help you navigate the impact. You can use free mental health services through the Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling Program. The program manager says taking care of your mental health is just as important as physical health.

“People are experiencing a lot of new-onset symptoms with COVID-19,” said Cheryl Dubois, Program Manager of Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling of Central Louisiana Human Services District. “They may be feeling depression, anxiety. They may be feeling isolation that can compound and lead to mental health diagnosis.”

If you need traditional mental health services, the program can connect you to those.

“We really want people to call who are experiencing new-onset symptoms depression, anxiety,” Dubois said. “If you feel like you just need to talk to someone you can give us a call.”

To contact the helpline, call 1-855-487-5191 or text ‘REACHOUT’ to 741-741.

“Don’t get discouraged, depressed, don’t give up the mask, and don’t give up the testing,” Holcombe said. “Just slug on through until the end and then there is like a promised land post COVID. You just have to keep walking toward it.”

Dubois said oftentimes people don’t develop depression or anxiety, they just need someone to talk to.

“We don’t want people to feel alone and wait until they get to the point that they’re in a crisis before they give us a call,” Dubois said. “We want people to be able to connect with us immediately.”

Dubois said pandemic fatigue happens in many ways. For some people, it’s the fear of contracting COVID-19 or their family members. This year of wearing masks, restrictions or money problems also adds to pandemic fatigue that affects mental health.

“Learning to take a break for yourself to give yourself that mental fortitude is really important just like physical health,” Dubois said.

Whatever you’re dealing with, the Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling Program is here to help you conquer COVID-19. The program has many parts to help people improve and maintain their mental health.

“We’ll go to a place on their lunch break and offer stress management skills during working hours for people in places,” Dubois said. “Especially, a lot of businesses have been impacted by COVID-19 as well. So, nurses, hospitals, first responders anywhere that they may need some extra help.”

If you feel mentally affected by the pandemic, Dubois said a few things you can do are meditate, relax, try deep breathing and taking walks as coping skills. According to Holcombe, you must realize this pandemic won’t last forever.

“Within a year’s time, your life is going to be back to normal,” Holcombe said. “It’s a hard thing to get through, and we all have to get through it together.”

Dubois said mental health is not just what happens when you have depression or anxiety.

“You may have good mental health, or you may have difficulty with your mental health. There are techniques and ways, things that you can do to strengthen your mental health,” she said. “Coping skills, resiliency, relaxation training can all help you before you develop symptoms of a mental health disorder.”

According to Dubois, mental health is just like physical health, the more you take care of mental health the better your outcomes will be.

“If you take care of yourself the way you think, the way you respond to situations...those things are all part of a process. The more you take care of it, the better your outcomes are,” Dubois said.

She said there are apps that will send a notification to remind you to take breaks, deep breathing or walks.

During the pandemic, the Central Louisiana Human Services District and Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling want the community to take the time to give their mental health a boost.

“We encourage people to connect to one another, to connect to services, to put their mental health first, to understand the relationship between preventative care,” Dubois said.

The Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling program has two counselors and two resource linkage coordinators who are right here in Central Louisiana.

“It’s a live person,” Dubois said. “1-855-487-5191 is our number, and we can connect people to resources that provide coping skills. The program is completely confidential and designed for everyone who has been affected in any way by COVID-19.”

Visit the Central Louisiana Human Services District website to contact them about a Narcan program for people addicted to opioids.

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