(This September 17 story corrects Dr. Howard Liu’s title to a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Communications)
By Beatrix Lockwood
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Months in, the pandemic continues to take a toll on mental health. As part of our #AskReuters Twitter chat series, Reuters gathered a group of experts to share their tips on coping with isolation, caregiving and more.
Below are edited highlights.
How does isolation affect mental health? What are some strategies we can use to find community during a lockdown?
“Before the pandemic, we were already in the middle of a mental health crisis. And the pandemic has only made that more urgent. An August survey from the Centers for Disease Control found that over 40% of adults reported experiencing mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression.”
— Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post and CEO of Thrive Global
“Physical isolation doesn’t mean social isolation. Staying connected is more important than ever. Take a walk, enjoy nature, gather in small numbers outside. Be present.”
— Preeti Malani, chief health officer at University of Michigan Medicine
What should business leaders know about COVID-19’s impact on their employees, whether they are working remotely or on-site? What are some steps they can take to address it?
“Everything is different. Everyone’s routines, support systems and expectations have changed. Have grace. Allow flexibility. Provide anonymous, confidential support.”
— Megan Ranney, associate professor of emergency medicine at Brown University
“Don’t just say you support mental health. Model it so that your team members feel they can prioritize self-care and set boundaries.”
— Kelly Greenwood, founder & CEO of Mind Share Partners
Do you have tips for dealing with grief over the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19?
“Grieving for loved ones is so hard during COVID-19. We can’t gather for funerals or memorials. We can’t be in the hospital to offer comfort on the final days. We can meet family and friends virtually or socially distant. Reach out to friends and professional health when needed.”
— Lawrence Gostin, director at O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown Law
What advice do you have for caregivers now? How can we support our children during COVID-19?
“It’s hard to think about how to help others when individuals might be struggling themselves! Maintain self-care and healthy habits. Help kids do the same: get outside, connect with friends (even if virtual), establish routines.”
— Elizabeth Stuart, Associate Dean for Education Professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
“Role modeling is so important for kids, and that includes role modeling vulnerability as parents. When we are grieving, don’t hide. It’s OK for kids to see your tears. When we are down, it’s OK to let them know you are seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.”
— Dr. Howard Liu, chair of University of Nebraska Medical Center’s department of psychiatry and a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s Council on Communications
How can we help our friends, family and colleagues who are feeling depressed, anxious and maybe even suicidal?
“Don’t be afraid to ask about safety. It is awkward and anxiety-provoking. People do not consider suicide because someone asks. Asking is often the intervention that keeps people safe. Isolation and helplessness are much greater risks than despair.”
— Rebecca Kullback, psychotherapist and co-owner of Metropolitan Counseling Associates and LaunchWell College Readiness Program
What makes people resilient?
“A sense of belonging can promote resilience: that could be a sense of belonging to family, a group one identifies with, culture, or place in the world. Familiarity with your own history can support a sense of belonging and therefore increase resilience.”
— Riana Elyse Anderson, assistant professor in the health behavior and health education department at the University of Michigan School of Public Health
(Editing By Lauren Young and Dan Grebler)