Mental Health Strategies When Social Distancing

Social distancing and limits on social activities create new challenges for individuals struggling with existing or new mental health issues.

Previous interventions often recommended by mental health providers to combat depression or anxiety included reaching out to family or friends, engaging in social activities and other forms of self-care that aren’t as readily available in today’s COVID-19 world.

“These individuals discover that what was once a vital part of their recovery is now limited or unavailable,” said Jesse Gutierrez, LCSW, behavioral health consultant with Memorial Behavioral Health. “As a result, the individual may experience an increase in symptoms, which can be compounded by the addition of COVID-19 related factors.”

Those wrestling with newly diagnosed mental health issues and those experiencing mental health symptoms directly related to COVID-19 are faced with the challenge of a more socially closed-off world.

Gutierrez has found it helpful to encourage patients to adjust expectations of what self-care looks like today. He brainstorms ideas with patients and has found that previous “rainy day goals” provide a valuable tool.

“Rainy day goals are those things people never found time to do pre-COVID-19,” he said. “This could include home improvement projects, putting together a family photo album or returning to a hobby or trying new hobbies. Often rainy day goals provide structure and purpose with an end goal in sight.”

Gutierrez stressed that for those with a history of suicidal ideation or attempts, it is vitally important to maintain scheduled contact with others whether on the phone, social media or within social distance guidelines.

“Scheduled contacts benefit the individual who is assured that someone is concerned and available if help is needed,” he said. “The supportive individual benefits from monitoring the individual to identify issues before they reach a crisis state. Those having depression, anxiety or other symptoms are not weak or flawed. They just have difficulty coping with extraordinary circumstances.”

If you or a loved one are considering suicide, please use the resources below.

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-TALK (8255). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7, is free and confidential and provides support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved one.
  • Take an online screening. Memorial Behavioral Health offers an anonymous, free mental health self-assessment. You’ll receive immediate, customized feedback as well as the opportunity to schedule an appointment for further evaluation if necessary.
  • Contact a provider at Memorial Behavioral Health. Memorial Behavioral Health is providing telehealth and phone appointments with their patients.