Tag Archives: depression

Mental Health in a Pandemic

Cathy Sneed, LISW

Not many of us have lived through times like these before. Cathy Snead, Senior Life Solutions Therapist for Ringgold County Hospital, outlined some strategies for keeping you and your family mentally strong.

Children have become isolated from some friends and family. Routines have changed, they’re fearful of the virus, and are often spending too much time in front of a computer. Parents can start with the basics and provide a healthy diet and time for exercise and p l a y . “Parents should watch for behavior changes like wanting more time alone, Solutions Therapist acting out verbally, or behavioral outbursts,” said Cathy. “If you are aware of these kinds of changes, seek out expert help as early as possible. Ask a counselor for advice on how to speak with your child. It’s important to listen openly and to encourage them to feel safe asking for and accepting help.”

Children are not the only ones affected. Parents are being pulled in many directions as they try to work from home while they tend to children and perhaps elderly parents as well. If you or your spouse are experiencing mood changes, wanting to isolate, having crying spells, or are having difficulty concentrating, it’s most likely stress related. Along with counseling, Cathy recommends self-care. “Self-care is being aware of your personal needs,” she explains. “It’s important to make time for yourself to prevent burnout and fatigue during stressful times.” She adds that it’s normal to feel depressed occasionally, but if it continues for extended periods of time, seeking professional help is a good plan. “I suggest they start with their primary care physician to rule out a medical complication,” advised Cathy. “If there are no medical concerns, a mental health professional can help identify techniques and strategies that will work best for the individual.”

Seniors are being isolated for the sake of their own physical health, whether they’re in assisted living or in their own homes. They’re missing church, social activities, family visits, and regular meals and routines. According to Cathy, depression in seniors can be mild, evidenced by a low mood, lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or insomnia. Major depression affects a person’s thinking and can have them overstressing the negative, having inflexible rules, and taking responsibility for bad events. “Seniors may also experience generalized anxiety, chronic worry, while feeling uptight and restless,” she added. “These are all symptoms that can be exasperated by experiencing the current pandemic.” Friends and family members can offer emotional support and encouragement by listening with intent, offering to take the depressed person to the doctor or medical provider, and sharing validation for their feelings. It’s clear that mental health is as important as physical health. During these trying times, it’s critical that we keep our eyes on each other and watch for signs of stress and anxiety. If you or an older adult need help, or to speak to a professional, contact Senior Life Solutions at 641-464-4468.

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You’re Not Alone

Bruce Ricker, D.O., is a physician in the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic and cares for many elderly patients. “Senior Life Solutions has been invaluable,” he says. “I’ve referred so many people to the program and seen firsthand how it helps with recovery for depression and stressful life circumstances.” He adds that being able to offer it locally in Ringgold County is so important. “There are people who aren’t able to travel well, or no longer drive. The staff will pick them up and bring them to counseling. It keeps them from being socially isolated.” Dr. Ricker has observed that patients tend to do better with a holistic approach. He can prescribe medication for depression, but medication plus counseling together gets the best results. “Patients find out that even if the life situation that got them to the program is different from others in the group, coping mechanisms can be very similar and they can really learn from each other.” He added that just getting out of the house and being with other people can be beneficial in itself.

A physician’s point of view: Bruce Ricker, D.O.The real success of Senior Life Solutions is the staff, according to Dr. Ricker. “For them, it’s not just a job, it’s a profession and a passion. They are really in it to help people, and our community is blessed.”

• 1 in 5 adults in America experience a mental illness.
• Nearly 1 in 25 (10 million) adults in America live with a serious mental illness.
• One-half of all chronic mental illness begin by the age of 14; threequarters by the age of 24.
• 16 million American adults live with major depression.
• 42 million American adults live with anxiety disorders.
• Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.
• 90% if those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

Coach’s Corner – Caring for Yourself

Eat Well: It’s common to pack on 5-10 pounds during the holiday season, but there are ways you can eat both healthy and well! Know which foods are high in caloric contents and low in nutrition. You don’t have to deprive yourself, but indulge in moderation. Eat smaller meals instead of one huge buffet. Opt for healthy options at home so you can splurge a little at holiday parties. Remember to be aware of all calories – especially liquid calories in alcoholic beverages.

Stay active: Exercise is just as important during the holidays as any other time of the year. You should be active at least four to five times a week, preferably with some aerobic exercise every day. The weather may be cold outside, but it’s worth it. Bundle up!

Prevent illness and injuries: Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. Stay warm by dressing layers. Sprinkle sand on icy patches.

Help others: Depression and suicidal tendencies can increase during the holidays. Watch for signs of depression among your friends and family. Take an active role to support those in need.

Free Crisis Hotline
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