Life is tough enough when everything is going relatively well. But, at a time like this, with fear, uncertainty, loss of autonomy, a decrease in our social interactions, an endless news cycle of bad news, and financial hardship, anyone can be vulnerable to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or a relapse for alcoholics or drug addicts.
So, I asked my sister, a psychiatrist and chief of psychiatry at a hospital in the Texas Medical Center in Houston to write this guest blog piece to provide you with advice on how to care for your mental health during a time like this. We want you to know that you are important, your life is valuable and there are many people who care about you. The bravest thing you can do is to ask for help if you need it.
So, here is my sister, Dr. Jennifer Pate, who I am very proud of, with her advice to all my blog readers.
Let’s face it, these tiny red fuzz balls have impacted every aspect of life down to the last square of toilet paper. Many of you have families or friends directly impacted and we are here to let you know we care and support you.
I appreciate my brother Dr. David Pate allowing me to guest post.
As a psychiatrist, I am receiving many calls from distraught or suicidal patients, especially those living alone. Please reach out to your single friends who live alone. This is especially important for our seniors. Many seniors who are otherwise quite functional are struggling and becoming confused due to lack of stimulation in isolation. We can all relate to the fact that days seem like weeks and weeks seem like years. I remember days on a cruise ship (of all places) where they would announce the day and date. We should do the same especially at senior living facilities where people cant leave their rooms to lessen confusion.
Make sure that you are not overusing your meds. You may think it is okay to take one or two more pills, but it may not be safe to do that.
In a post where I am trying to perk you up, this topic may seem odd. Make this an opportunity to update your medication list in the event you are hospitalized and even more importantly, update your advance directives. Have a conversation with your family about what you would and would not want with regards to a trial on a ventilator, dialysis, and other medical care. Please, understand that you are never having to choose to “pull the plug”, you are verbalizing what your family member is unable to articulate. You should know what is wanted from having had a conversation BEFORE the crisis.
This is an excellent opportunity to write your obituary, plan your funeral and inventory all financial accounts and passwords. Our father wrote his obituary and just left the date off and this is a gift I appreciate daily. Make sure you and your spouse know where all financial accounts are and passwords for the accounts.
This is an opportunity to organize and spring clean. Perhaps you have never had time to clean out that closet and now you do.
Maintain a routine. Try to sleep and get up at normal hours.
Exercise is a known antidepressant. Take advantage of each day with weather allowing you to get outside.
If you are struggling with child abuse or domestic violence, reach out to community resources.
I have had multiple suicidal patients this week. Please reach out to the suicide hotlines. If you need to be seen, try to go to a free-standing mental health facility and not a hospital ER. There are many therapists online and you can explore options at PsychologyToday.com.
People in recovery from alcohol or drugs are incredibly prone to relapse. Contact AA Intergroup to connect with online meetings.
Limit your exposure to media coverage as that may be traumatizing as well. I tell my patients to chose two sessions of news daily. One in the morning and one in the evening. Otherwise sign up with your favorite news outlet and receive notifications on your phone regarding any urgent news.
If you are healthy and live in a low risk household, offer to get groceries or run errands for those who can’t.
Our shelter pets need us, too. Many shelters are allowing you to apply online to foster. You then pull up to the shelter and they load the foster pet in your car. We all know the many health benefits of pets.
Stay safe, Stay sane and thank you for following the stay at home orders to protect all of us!
We are all better together apart!
If you are suicidal or thinking about suicide, call your doctor or call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you or someone you know is being abused, get help as soon as possible. You can cal the Idaho Legal Aid Service’s domestic violence hotline at 208-746-7541.
For AA meeting locations and times, call 1-844-334-6862.