Roger Brubaker, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Coordinator for Lane County Public Health, said that there has not been an uptick in suicide deaths and there are options available for those who are struggling. Photo Provided
Even at a distance, mental health services and professionals are there to support clients and those struggling through self-isolation; however, to keep people physically safe, mental health professionals have to try new avenues to reach patients.
“The consequences of that is quite clear, we’re promoting physical safety, but it is in direct conflict with all the recommendations we give people normally about connecting with people and spending time with other,” Roger Brubaker, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion Coordinator for Lane County Public Health, said. “We have to acknowledge that disconnect and find opportunities.”
During this time, mental health providers and psychiatrists are utilizing telemedicine or phone calls to connect with clients, as well as encouraging them to connect with loved ones. Brubaker said that while everyone is fighting to flatten the curve, there is the concern of developing the “curve behind the curve.”
“Increase in substance misuse, behavioral health issues and potentially suicides,” he explained. “In times of economic crisis a host of issues increase and we need to be prepared for that and acknowledge that.”
Although there has not been an increase of suicide deaths, Brubaker added that this is a crisis unlike others, such as earthquakes and 9/11, which brings people together over shared trauma and lowers those issues. While there is an opportunity to do that in this crisis, Brubaker said they have to find new pathways that might not feel as comfortable.
Janet Perez, licensed clinical social worker and manager of behavioral health services for PeaceHealth, said they have not seen an uptick in patients and in their outpatient clinic, have not been taking new referrals. One of the big concerns she has is people’s ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle and care for themselves in isolation.
“Be kind with yourself and your loved ones,” she said. “This is an unprecedented experience we’re all having at different levels. Don’t expect a lot from each other or from ourselves. Be kind and forgiving and we will get through this.”
She added that for a lot of people, grief plays a role as well: There is a loss of routine, ability to connect and see family members and lifestyle. Brubaker said that in terms of potentially mourning loss of a loved one or preparing for that, it’s important to apply mindfulness.
“Acknowledge the anxiety about fears of a loss of a loved one for what they are,” he said. “There is a real risk out there. When we make those acknowledgments and see those emotions, we are oftentimes able to take a little bit of control, and recognizing things outside of our control can hopefully bring some centeredness.”
Brubaker said that a critical thing people can do right now is ask for help when they need it and not wait for others to ask for help.
“Reach in,” he said. “People just need to rely on intuition and reach out to folks and demonstrate that they care and have compassion for the shared difficulties we’re all going through.”
He recommends using mindfulness to tune into the physical environment and witness what is occurring so people can recognize the division between self and the external world. He suggests naming and identifying the emotions that pass through, which can help regain control.
Perez also recommends limiting the time reading the news and following information.
“Give yourself an hour a day to look at cases and how people have recovered from that, and really educate yourself beyond sensationalism,” she said.
One of the things that surprised Perez to see at PeaceHealth was a sense of resiliency and people who are managing pretty well. That said, she added that there are differing degrees of emotions that can change daily.
“One day a person can feel fine and like, ‘I got this,’ and then the next day feel a little more on edge,” she said. “Really check in with themselves and reach out for support and know they’re people out there who can help.”
NotOk - notokapp.com
Mindshift - anxietycanada.com
National suicide prevention hotline:
Crisis text line: 741-741