WASHINGTON, D.C. – The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), in addition to its physical health impacts on thousands of Americans, has disrupted the lives of millions more. Many now face uncertainty over their medical condition and that of their families, management of their daily lives, social isolation, financial stressors, and other issues. In the face of this pandemic and the turmoil it has caused, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) offers the following guidance for maintaining mental health and coping with stress.
People and their families can first mitigate stress by planning for the outbreak, and taking measures recommended by health experts to reduce risk, like proper handwashing and social distancing. Maintaining a routine involving a balance of time outside, relaxation, and connecting with friends and family (through technology when necessary) will also help. While paying attention to credible sources of news on the virus is important, take breaks from time to time, including from social media, to avoid being overwhelmed.
In speaking with children about the coronavirus, the most important thing for them to understand is that their concerns are being heard, and that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to keep them safe and healthy. Spend time, if possible, in normal activities with them and listen to what’s on their minds.
While a number of Americans will experience some stress or anxiety as a result of COVID-19, contact a health care professional if your distress remains high after several weeks, you are having persistent trouble functioning, or are thinking about hurting yourself or someone else.
“This is a very challenging and stressful time for Americans, and it can cause feelings of anxiety for many,” said APA President Bruce Schwartz, M.D. “In the face of this epidemic, paying attention to our mental health and those of our friends and families will help us persevere. Sometimes doing our best to recognize that some of our fears maybe be exaggerated is the best remedy.”
APA’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters and the APA’s Council on International Psychiatry, led by Joshua Morganstein, M.D., have been compiling many resources over the past few days for psychiatrists and the general public available at COVID-19 Mental Health Impacts: Resources for Psychiatrists.
If you are experiencing a crisis, the resources below are available to help now:
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Textline: Text TALK to 741741
American Psychiatric Association
The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 38,500 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit www.psychiatry.org.