Covid19 and Mental Health
From Devi Gursahaney: Just like all of you during this global pandemic, social distancing, and the disruption of everything, I too am stuck at home, leaving the house once or twice a week only for essentials like groceries and medical care. And while we’re all (appropriately) focusing on caring for the physical health of ourselves, our families, and our communities, I believe that our mental, emotional, and social health needs are quickly emerging as profoundly important as well.
I am an executive director of Red Flags National. Red Flags is a framework and toolkit for school-based mental health education training to address the mental health needs of students at the onset of mental health concerns. Red Flags operates on the principle that mental health like physical health is a public health concern and mental illnesses are common in children. The earlier the intervention, the more effective efforts are at treating them.
Just like we are dedicated to offering children resources for personal growth and resilience, we are equally dedicated to showing up for teachers and parents—especially in these times when you are quite literally doing it all. So we at Red Flags are with you on this journey. We see you. We see your children. And our commitment to you remains as strong as ever.
What does all of this have to do with a global pandemic, social distancing, and the disruption of daily routine? The outbreak of corona virus may be stressful for you or your family. Fear and
anxiety about the disease is natural, as is depression caused by the various constraints imposed on us: no social events, no more trips to the gym, the café, or a friend’s house, no time for self as children and/or spouses may be home inhabiting the same space 24/7.
The point of all of this? It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, which may cause various emotions in adults as well as children while our daily routine is disrupted. However, we also have an opportunity to be intentional about creating a new normal that brings sanity, peace and joy for everyone.
How? Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. And while we can’t physically gather right now, as part of Red Flag’s commitment to the community we’re providing a handful of free resources we hope will be of benefit to you and your families as well.
Remember: Despite the seriousness and uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the ability to help ourselves, each other and most importantly, our kids be more resilient, emotionally balanced, and as physically protected during this time of crisis. If there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to send me an email at DeviG@RedFlags.org.
Suggestions for homebound parents with children provided by National Alliance on Mental Health Ohio (NAMI Ohio) and Parents Advocacy Connection (PAC) www.namiohio.org
1. Respond to their reactions in a supportive manner.
2. Build in structure whenever possible but be mindful when they show signs of needing a break to be silly or to just rest.
3. Answer their questions in an honest, clear way. When you don’t know an answer, be honest about that and look the question up if possible. The Ohio Department of Health has
done an amazing job of keeping clear, accurate information posted on their web site www.coronavirus.ohio.gov
4. Find ways to build in opportunities for physical activity a few times a day. Go for a walk. Create a relay in your yard or house. Play hide and seek. Do jumping jacks or sit ups. Dance. Ask them for ideas.
5. Find ways for them to help. It might be doing simple chores or helping plan and cook meals. Let them know this is a Family Team and they play an important role as one of the members of the team.
6. Model positive behavior. If you need to shed some tears do it out of their sight especially if they are under 10. If they see you break down, be honest about your stress but let them know you are committed to carrying on.
7. Keep track of their sleep and appetite. Encourage them to be in touch with friends virtually.
We will provide more resources, so check in regularly! Devi Gursahaney.