Mental health experts shares tips on how to cope with coronavirus pandemic, quarantine

HOUSTON – The coronavirus pandemic and month-long quarantine has taken a mental toll on nearly half of Americans, according to a new poll.

Stress, anxiety, depression, isolation and financial fears are some of the things weighing heavy on people’s minds right now. In some cases, they can lead to suicide.

The national suicide hotline averages about 130,000 every year. The hotline has seen an uptick in people reaching out for help with millions now isolated.

In Harris County, a patrol deputy took his own life last Sunday, Sherrif Ed Gonzalez said. In the first four months of 2020, there were 135 suicides in the county, according to Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. In 2019 there were 524 suicides. There were 512 in 2018.

Tips for coping

Professor Asim Shah with Baylor College of Medicine said whether someone is social distancing, in self-isolation or in quarantine people must recognize their triggers and minimize them.

“When you think about it there’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of panic. Some of that is understandable whenever there is a fear of the unknown, people get anxious, people get panicky,” he said. “I think it’s happening a little bit more than perhaps we would expect and the reason for that is everybody’s capability to handle stress anxiety is different. Some people can handle it better than others."

Shah said the first step is recognizing you have a problem. The next step is to seek help from a mental health professional.

“Unless you recognize you have a problem, you’re not going to be able to do anything about it,” he said.

Shah said eating healthy, exercising and limiting alcohol intake are highly advised. He said having structure throughout our day can be helpful, especially for those now working from home.

“Structure, meaning waking up the same time you used to wake up before, have breakfast the same time, work maybe in an office setting or in a room with less interruption. Take the same lunch break as you used to take before. Do the same end time as you used to do before,” the mental health expert said.

Shah said there are a lot of apps available that can help keep us connected to friends and loved ones when we’re feeling alone.

“In today’s day and age we have more means than ever to stay connected without being together,” he said. “We need to use all of those. We need to not look at the negatives but look at the positives.”

Some positives Shah outlined are that people are getting to spend more time with their families and are learning new habits.

NOTE: If you or someone you know is struggling and need help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.