COVID-19 Town Hall: Taking care of your mental health

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KOMU 8's Emily Spain talked with a health psychology expert about taking care of your mental health during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Laura Schopp is the health psychology department chair in the MU School of Health Professions. In the town hall, she discussed ways to stay connected with people during this time despite having to be physically distanced.

She also talked about how the pandemic is affecting those with anxiety and depression and ways to get help. Check out her full answers below.

Q: How has COVID-19 thrown off our human connection and why is that so important?

"I think it's clear to all of us that we're seeing less of each other. And, we are missing the family and friends and loved ones in that intimate way that we usually connect. At the same time, though I think it's forged some interesting new connections as well. Walking around the neighborhood and seeing people walk 10 feet away from me and smiling and waving. People are waving from their cars."

"We have to feel connected to other people. Lots of mental health research suggests that people who are best at maintaining connections, even under adverse conditions like this, do the best in situations that are really trying."

Q: What's your advice for how to stay connected to others during this time of social distancing?

"Some of the research out there in mental health literature, especially during times of trouble and crisis, suggests that the people who are doing the best at helping others are actually going to do the best in terms of their own mental health. It might mean going and planting some flowers in your neighbor's yard or it might mean something simple like sweeping their walk or looking in on an elder neighbor, things like that. There's lots of ways that we can maintain connection."

Q: How have you seen this pandemic affect people's mental health?

"Anxiety and depression tend to be on the rise during uncertain times like this, of course, and the people most at risk are people who have previous mental health conditions, involving anxiety or depression or other mental health challenges like substance abuse. And so, these are people that we want to really keep our eye on. Make sure we check in on them by phone, FaceTime so you can see that person, doesn't have to be long, but needs to be frequent."

Q: If someone is struggling with mental health issues, what resources would you suggest?

"Well, here in Boone County we are so fortunate to have a great coalition of agencies that are working together. If you simply Google, 'Boone County Mental Health COVID,' you'll get to a page that not only provides mental health resources, but also provides really tangible resources for elderly folks, people with disabilities, children."

"Get outside more and get away from that screen. Sometimes it's getting outside and walking around the block can help you forget there is a coronavirus for a little while and that's a real gift to all of us."

Here's the full list of mental health services listed on the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services website:

Adults (any adult Boone County resident age 20 and older)

Burrell Behavioral Health- Assessment Center

Compass Health Network- Behavioral Health Services
Central Intake 844-853-8937
Crisis-line 888-237-4567

Children, Youth, and Families (any children/youth age 19 and under and their families in Boone County)

Family Access Center of Excellence (FACE) of Boone County

If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis or are having thoughts of suicide, call the 24/7 Crisis Hotline 800.395.2132.