The coronavirus pandemic has caused problems across a wide spectrum of issues. Social distancing, although helping to slow the spread of the virus, has made it difficult for people in recovery or dealing with mental illness to find help. Support groups no longer have in-person meetings and many health care providers have limited or no face-to-face contact with patients.
Yet sometimes it is crises like the one we are currently experiencing that can also lead to innovative solutions that may not have been found if there were no need for them. Video meeting platforms that were previously unknown to many of us have suddenly become a way for us to connect with family and friends, conduct work meetings, hold religious services and find recovery support and medical advice. Some of the most popular online video platforms are Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and FreeConferenceCall.com.
Cayuga County has a website, cayugacounty.us/response, that has information about the disease, but also many helpful links, such as those to crisis hotlines for suicide and domestic violence, online therapy, respite and recovery, and counseling assistance. One of the links is to the Syracuse chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, aasyracuseonline.com, which has reflections, daily readings and links to daily video meetings.
East Hill Medical Center uses a telehealth video conference platform to offer medical and other counseling services. Their main line is (315) 253-8477. They invite children, teens and adults who are “feeling anxious, scared or uncertain” to call and press prompt No. 2. Please be patient if lines are busy.
Social isolation, loss of jobs, reductions in work hours and being confined in a home or apartment for extended periods create stressful conditions, and these effects can be even stronger on a person in recovery or dealing with mental illness. Symptoms may range from changes in sleeping or eating habits, increased consumption of drugs or alcohol, and anxiety and depression.
"With the disease we have, we can't just put everything on pause."
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends the following coping strategies: Limit time watching or listening to news about the pandemic that may be depressing or frightening; exercise, rest and eat regular healthy meals; connect with friends and family online or by phone; and seek out any support or assistance needed to deal with a behavioral or emotional issue. Do not feel you are alone, even if you are isolated.
People who may not have had any recovery or mental health issue prior to this time of social distancing may suddenly find themselves feeling anxious or worried. Where will the money come from to pay bills or buy groceries? Will my children fall behind in their education because schools are closed? Will I have a job to go back to? If you or someone you know is experiencing stress because of the virus and its effects on social isolation or the economy, please encourage them to reach out to a health care professional or a support group.
In addition to the local support resources I mentioned above, there are is also help and support at the websites of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Alateen, Narcotics Anonymous, Nar-Anon, findtreatment.gov, suicidepreventionlifeline.org and samsha.gov.
If you need help, please reach out for it.
The need for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has made people second-guess even their most important face-to-face interactions.
Timothy Donovan, of Auburn, is a member of the Cayuga County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Subcommittee, and is a Cayuga County alcohol and substance abuse recovery advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com.