Easing mental health in the face of COVID-19

Mental Health Matters.com

With the uncertain times lingering upon us in dealing with COVID-19, mental health is still important, if not more important, in these times of social distancing. Especially for those with preexisting mental health conditions.

Trying to flatten the curve in the spread of COVID-19 has made us all aware of our part in how this disease is transmitted, and how fast it reaches communities, even those that are rural, like the Southern Ute Reservation. Community responsibility to protect the elderly and people with medical conditions, bringing us back to a warrior mentality by creating a guarded culture and helping those who need us the most.

“Warriors are not what you think of as warriors. The warrior is not someone who fights, because no one has the right to take another life. The warrior, for us, is one who sacrifices himself for the good of others. His task is to take care of the elderly, the defenseless, those who can not provide for themselves, and above all, the children, the future of humanity,” once said Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Lakota leader.

Mental health includes our emotional and mental wellbeing; it affects everything from how we feel, to how we handle how we feel and cope. Everyone has mental health; mental health problems are common, and many people can recover from them. Examples of some mental health problems include depression, anxiety, eating disorders and personality disorders.

There is no one cause why people experience mental health problems. There are many risk factors that can play a part in why or when someone experiences a mental health crisis, such as biological factors, traumatic life experiences, or family history of mental health problems.

While the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggest staying at home if you’re sick, making sure you cover your coughs and sneezes and making sure you disinfect and clean; how can we stay mentally fit? How do we self-care while social distancing, and what does that look like?

For some, social distancing might not be such a big deal – and for some – this changes their whole daily routines and structure. These changes can create a range of emotions for individuals and can also force us to become creative in ways we connect with people. For example, some people have started up singing by hosting watch parties and viral powwows on social media, since all the powwows and social gatherings are being cancelled. Some are taking walks together around their neighborhoods, while distancing themselves six feet apart. However you decide to engage with each other is up to you, but the key is to try to not socially and physically disengage from everyone and everything.

One way we can prepare ourselves for these changes is to notice your own emotional health first by accepting how you feel and by creating a plan on what to do when you feel this way. Talking to your family members, friends or our housemates about how you feel is a good thing, and maybe you can also be a part of their plan when they start feeling down or even frustrated with social distancing.

“Acknowledge your feelings and remember feelings come and go and they will pass,” said Angelina Whitehorse, Southern Ute Tribal Social Services Family Therapist. “That’s what we have to remind ourselves when we are feeling anxious during this time.”

How to make a plan. When you notice yourself feeling sad, mad, frustrated and maybe angry, what do you do? Do you have a space in your home you can go to so you can pray or maybe take a few breathes, clear your mind and maybe even bless yourself off? Or maybe taking a walk or jog works for you, or putting on your headphones and turning on some of your favorite music. Whatever works for you, write it down. It helps to write out what you will do when you start feeling the effects of social distancing. Writing down when you feel a certain way; you will try to do an activity to change those feeling. If this doesn’t work, maybe write down who you will call to talk to about how your feelings.

Remembering that we are resilient Indigenous people who have dealt with trauma and going to back to what our elders taught and have passed down through the generations.

If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed with depression, anxiety or sadness you can call Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis you can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to their website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 for free, confidential and professional support. For local support call the Southern Ute Behavior Health Division at 970-563-4581 or in case of emergency call 911.

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