The Covid-19 pandemic has taken its toll on our collective mental health. Fear, uncertainty, loneliness, and isolation have created or exacerbated mental health problems throughout the country . According to a survey by the American Psychiatric Association, more than a third of Americans said the pandemic was having “a serious impact” on their mental health.
To address mental health concerns, we all need to be involved in
- Caring for ourselves
- Caring for our family and friends
- Caring for our community
A first step is to stay connected. This is an important element in taking care of ones’ self as well as friends and family. In the BBUUC we have been deliberately reaching out to all members through our Caring Committee and In-Touch Team to make sure they are physically, financially, emotionally and mentally OK. During these difficult times, we all need to reach out to those we care about – whether they are close family members and friends or mere acquaintances.
Staying physically active is also an important factor in one’s mental well-being. A daily walk and at home exercising are highly recommended to help ease anxiety and renew your spirit. There are many apps and on-line exercise programs to help keep you on track.
Adequate sleep, augmented by daily meditation, has a significant impact on both our physical and mental health. Problems with sleeping can be a symptom of mental problems. There are apps and on-line programs that help you sleep and teach you how to meditate. Many have free trials or provide limited services at no cost. Trying them out is rather fun. Check out free trials available on www.mindfulness.com, www.calm.com, www.tenpercenthappiness.com, or www.simplehabit.com; or download the app on your phone. A similar site, www.headspace.com offers a free trial as well as one- year free membership to the unemployed.
If you or your friends or family members are having persistent or more severe symptoms of mental illness, you need to see a professional. Start with your primary care physician if you don’t already have a mental health specialist. Also, if you have insurance, you can check your insurers website for a listing of therapists. Also check out the therapist directory at www.PsycholgyToday.com. Many mental health specialists are now doing telehealth/virtual visits.
If you don’t have insurance, the locally based Mental Health Resource Center offers both outpatient and inpatient mental health services using an income based sliding scale fee schedule to all residents of Northeast Florida. If you qualify, services are free. They accept walk-ins for adults at 3333 West 20th Street on weekdays between 8:00 and 4:30. Inpatient services are available for both adults and children. For mental health emergencies, you can call MHRC at any time, day or night. Visit their website at www.mhrcflorida.com or call MHRC North Comprehensive Services Center at (904) 695-9145 for more information on their services.
To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK at any time, day or night; or visit their website at SuicidePreventionLifeline.Org.
If you need immediate medical assistance, call 911. Area hospitals handle mental health emergencies.
There are ways you can help your community with mental health issues whether or not you or your immediate circle of friends and family are suffering from mental health issues.
An organization has recently been organized in Northeast Florida to address the high rate of suicide among veterans. The organization, The Fire Watch, is currently recruiting individuals to become Watch Standers who connect with veterans , watch for risk signs and direct veterans in crisis to the help or support they need. For more information and to register for the program go to www.thefirewatch.org.
ICARE, the interfaith group that has been very successful in bringing positive change and increased social justice to Jacksonville, is currently addressing the issue of mental health in our community. Mental health issues were the most commonly mentioned problems at our house meetings in the fall of 2019. Several BBUUC members are engaged in conducting research on this issue. The primary focus has been on how we can improve the effectiveness of our law enforcement officers in dealing with mentally ill citizens by improving the Crisis Intervention Team training provided to officers. Getting involved in ICARE is a way to help our community deal with mental health.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a leading advocate for mental health that is a major vehicle for friends and family members and anyone concerned about mental health issues to make a difference. With 500 local affiliates, including one serving Duval and Clay Counties, they raise awareness and provide support and education on mental health. For more information go to their website at www.nami.org or call the local affiliate at 904-724-7782.