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Mental Health Awareness Month

Lise-Anne Deoul - Columnist
Posted 5/20/21

Chances are you or someone you know is struggling with mental health. Estimates are 20% of those over age 55 are dealing with some form of mental illness. The most common forms are depression, severe …

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Mental Health Awareness Month

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Chances are you or someone you know is struggling with mental health. Estimates are 20% of those over age 55 are dealing with some form of mental illness. The most common forms are depression, severe cognitive impairment and mood disorders (such as bipolar disorder). Additionally, men over the age of 85 have the highest rate of suicide of any group. (www.cdc.gov/ aging/pdf/mental_health.pdf)

Many people who did not have an issue with mental health prior to the COVID 19 pandemic now find themselves struggling with mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Many people are afraid for their own health or that of their loved ones and feel out of control due to the isolation of the pandemic.

The good news is there are things you can control and ways to cope with the additional stress of the current environment. Below are some examples:

• Household chores, such as spring cleaning, will give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment when completed.

• Free online university courses and courses through courses, such as Yale University's most popular class ever: The Science of Well-Being. They offer a great learning opportunity. There are other technological choices too such as podcasts like The Happiness Lab with Yale Professor Dr. Laurie Santos.

• Movies are moving from theaters to online. Netflix is also a good option.

• TV programming has expanded during the crisis, particularly through streaming services like Netflix. You can also currently stream the Met Opera for free. The NFL and NBA are also offering complementary access to online streaming platforms.

• Virtual parishes, which the Pope and other faith leaders are offering, can help maintain religious connections.

• Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It's good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.

• Take care of your body; eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly.

• Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate and get plenty of sleep.

• Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.

• Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.

• Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when available.

• Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

• Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.

Warning Signs Someone Needs Help:

• Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

• Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

• Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

• Increased worry or feeling stressed

• Anger, irritability or aggressiveness

• Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

• A need for alcohol or drugs

• Sadness or hopelessness

• Suicidal thoughts

• Engaging in high-risk activities

• Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

• Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

• Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

Health Disparities:

Research indicates that compared with people who are white, black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) are:

• Less likely to have access to mental health services

• Less likely to seek out services

• Less likely to receive needed care

• More likely to receive poor quality of care

• More likely to end services prematurely

Additionally, BIPOC are overrepresented in the criminal justice system, as the system overlays race with criminality. Statistics show that over 50% of those incarcerated have mental health concerns. BIPOC are also underrepresented as treating professionals; approximately 86% of psychologists are white, and less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are African American.

Getting Help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chat.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

Veteran's Crisis Line: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text: 8388255

Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).

You can reach Sullivan NYConnects at 845-807-0257 or Sullivan County Office for the Aging at 845-807-0241.

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