By: Dr. Asa T. Briggs, DNP, Contributing Writer
In the current climate of COVID-19 and social distancing and self-quarantine—courtesy, care, and compassion are essential to our community members and health care providers who suffer from mental illness.
From the first reports of COVID-19 spreading throughout the Western Hemisphere, the virus began to shift the economic, political, social and health care ground beneath us.
Self-quarantine and social distancing are already an all too familiar reality for individuals who suffer from many types of mental illnesses. Each year, millions of Americans suffer from mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the United States and 17% of youth (ages 6-17) suffer from some form of mental illness. Subsequently, mental illness is one of the highest disease burdens in the world. Due to COVID-19, self-quarantine and social distancing may cause symptom exacerbation, an increase in newly diagnosed mental health patients and in some unfortunate cases perhaps even suicide.
Prolonged periods of isolation can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health. In the era of social distancing, prolonged periods of isolation are commonplace. Some of the physiological and mental health changes of prolonged isolation include body pains, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, worry and worsening of medical conditions—like high blood pressure and depression.
Here are a few tips to maintain good mental health while socially distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Get exercise: Moderate exercise indoors or outside (with appropriate distance) can boost your mental health
Keep in touch with family and friends: Social distancing does not have to mean social isolation. Stay in touch with your family and loved ones through phone calls, video chats and texting.
Learn something new and exciting: Many organizations are offering free or reduced educational courses on-line. Want to switch careers or learn a new skill? Now is the time. Use this time to invest in your future.
Dr. Asa T. Briggs, DNP is the Program Director of Rural Psychiatric Services at Prisma Health-Upstate.