With schools and non-essential businesses closed, emergency declarations and restrictions being implemented at all levels of government, on top of the constant stream of rapidly changing information and misinformation, it’s undeniable COVID-19 is affecting several aspects of daily life for many.
The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) encourages residents across the state, including in Gillette and Campbell County, to recognize the need to be mindful of mental health while protecting themselves and others from the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease, per a March 26 WDH release.
“We know this outbreak is likely stressful for people for many different reasons,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state epidemiologist and health officer with WDH. “The fears and worry we may experience can be at times overwhelming.”
Matt Petry, Behavioral Health Division senior administrator with WDH, agreed, adding that each person will respond to stress caused by the outbreak differently. Petry also noted that people with preexisting mental health conditions should continue with their treatment as much as possible and take note of any new or worsening symptoms.
According to the CDC, how different people respond to the pandemic can also depend on their personality and their community. It’s meaningful to note that in the state of Wyoming 80% of suicides are completed by men with 64% completed with firearms. Additionally,those who are at a higher risk for contracting coronavirus, including older adults and people with underlying health conditions, may have a heightened emotional or stress response.
“Wyoming’s community mental health providers are a good resource for help and their services are available regardless of ability to pay,” Petry said. “Many local mental health providers are helping clients using Telehealth methods (like Zoom) during this time.”
Suicide is a serious issue, to state the obvious. Perhaps more so in the state of Wyoming, which has the third-highest suicide rate in the U.S. per capita.
Even the simplest activities can go a long way in helping alleviate stress and anxiety throughout the outbreak, especially during periods of social distancing and isolation. As commonplace as it might sound, eating right, getting fresh air and exercise along with plenty of sleep can help those who feel emotional distress related to COVID-19 cope and restore mental balance, per the CDC, as does avoiding drug and alcohol use and abstaining from too much media consumption including local and national news and social media.
The WHD also recommends connecting with loved ones and others who may be experiencing stress about the situation. Talk about feelings and enjoy conversation unrelated to the outbreak, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends.
Anyone in immediate danger of harming themselves, or who knows of someone in immediate danger of harming themselves, should call 911 for emergency services, per the release.
For more information about Wyoming’s community mental health centers, click here.
To learn more about managing anxiety and stress during the pandemic, click here.