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Impact on mental health during a pandemic

Posted at 8:11 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 21:42:37-04

"This is just an unprecedented time, we have so much to process," said Dr. Rebecca Hubbard.

Hubbard knows the stress everyone is under during this COVID-19 pandemic. It's part of her job as the director of outreach, prevention and education for Mental Health Association Oklahoma.

"This is a traumatic experience for everyone," she said. "Any way you slice it, it has some level of trauma to it."

Hubbard said this pandemic is affecting everything that's important to Oklahomans.

"There's a few things people are really emotional about, right?" she said. "Finances, children, and health. This literally impacts all three of them."

That's why she's very worried about the mental health of Oklahomans working from home or sheltering in place.

She's not alone.

Healthy Minds Policy Initiative, a nonpartisan team of mental health experts working with state and local leaders, has published a report on how COVID-19 could impact Oklahoma. The team said in the next 12 months, 30% of children quarantined could experience PTSD. Unemployment and financial stress will increase drug addiction and alcoholism. 100,000 Oklahomans may experience suicidal thoughts and 30,000 could attempt suicide.

"Unfortunately, we have already seen some suicides in the community and some significant mental health challenges come forward," Hubbard said.

Hubbard said recognizing the signs of stress is vitally important. This includes trouble sleeping, nightmares, tightness in your chest, or a racing heartbeat. Trouble getting motivated to get out of bed or doing something you love to do is another sign.

"If you start noticing a pattern that everyday you're not motivated or everyday you're snapping at the kids, or overwhelmed, right? It might be a good time to reach out and hear the other people in that group say, 'me too,'" she said.

Hubbard wants everyone to know there is help out there. Do not be afraid to call.

"You can even call and start counseling, brand new, via telehealth," she said.

Whether it's one on one discussions, group meetings, or self-help, find what works for you, stick with it and stay positive. Because together we can get through this.

"We can work to actually have traumatic growth," Hubbard said. "Which means we experience a trauma, but we also develop adaptations and coping through that process, and we become resilient."

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