Millions of Americans are experiencing heightened anxiety due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and individuals with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable under the current shelter-in-place orders. We reached out to two leading local mental healthcare groups, NAMI Tarrant and MHMR of Tarrant County, to see what mental health resources are available during this crisis.
Turquoise Banks, president of NAMI Tarrant, said her group has seen many Tarrant County residents reach out to her nonprofit with concerns about COVID-19. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization.
“At all times, but especially when physical distancing is expected of us, we believe in the importance of checking in” with friends and family, she said. “By this, we mean it’s a good time to call a friend, FaceTime a family member, or text an acquaintance. Letting someone know that you’re thinking about them can make all the difference. We need social connection more than ever in a time like this, even if we can’t physically be in the same place.”
A simple “How are you?” or “I’m sorry you are struggling, let me help” can make all the difference, she said.
“If you’re having an increase in anxiety or your mental health condition is becoming unstable, there are many behavioral health resources available,” she added. “If you are keeping a good sleep routine, eating well and drinking water, and physically active, all of this will help you feel more equipped to manage your mental health.”
The national level of her group offered this advice.
For anyone who is unsure about attending therapy sessions outside the home, especially those who the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] have described as being at higher risk, you can ask your healthcare provider about teletherapy or mental health services online. For anyone who is worried about access to prescribed medications, you can ask your healthcare provider about getting 90-day supplies versus a 60- or 30-day supply. If this is not possible, we encourage you to refill your medications as soon as they are allowed.
If healthcare providers deny/decline making accommodations, challenge the decisions at least three times. Decision-makers on making health plan adjustments may change if/as conditions worsen. Listen to and follow your local public healthcare provider expectations. Provide self-care, especially if in the higher risk population as defined by the CDC. Pay attention to emerging symptoms. Reach out to family and friends.
NAMI Tarrant is offering a Connections Recovery support group every Friday at 7pm via conference call. This group is for peers (individuals with mental health conditions) only. If you are someone who is living with a mental health condition and would like to connect, visit NAMItarrant.org or call 817-332-6677. NAMI recommends a podcast, Checking In with host with Susan David, that can be found on your favorite podcast app.
MHMR of Tarrant County
Catherine Carlton, chief of staff at MHMR of Tarrant County, provided the following statement.
During these uncertain times, if you need someone to talk to about your mental health, please call or text the MHMR ICARE Call Center at 817-335-3022. We have trained mental health professionals available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who can assist you.
We also want to share that Help Me Grow North Texas is launching its phone line 844-NTX-KIDS, which serves as a one-stop-shop for pregnant individuals and families with children through age 6.
MHMR of Tarrant County is advising residents to be mindful of stress symptoms, which may include difficulty sleeping, difficulty listening, headaches, and an increase or decrease in appetite.
Healthy ways to relax include taking deep breaths, stretching, meditating, walking, reading, and talking to friends and loved ones. Additional information and resources are available at Mhmrtarrant.org/coronavirus.