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Local Counselor speaks: Mental Health and bouncing back from the Coronavirus

The world is experiencing a level of collective distress that has never been seen before, due to COVID-19.

People are quarantining, spending days upon days and weeks upon weeks inside their homes and doing their best to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. Eventually, people will be able to emerge from their houses and return to a semblance of the pre-COVID-19 life. How they handle returning to that life is what is key.

With this isolation comes the potential effect on people’s mental health. While the fight, flight and freeze response is essential for survival, remaining in that state for an extended period of time takes a toll on the human body.

“We’re all kind of in this state of uncertainty,” said Tyler Stacy, a counselor at Cornerstone Counseling. “It’s collective distress and collective fatigue, and it’s just taking a toll on people. We all kind of have a limited capacity on how much we can deal with, and once a person kind of reaches their limit, then they turn towards something to cope.”

Turning to vices such as alcohol or drugs while in this isolation stage can further an individual’s inability to come out of the current world crisis as functional as they entered it.

Bouncing back from COVID-19 and the current state of affairs is something Stacy said he is helping clients deal with every day as this pandemic rolls on. Great advances have been made in the mental health field since this has started, and counselors such as Stacy have the ability to be more prepared to address the emotional toll COVID-19 may take on certain individuals.

Ways people can handle the effect COVID-19 on mental health include paying attention to any alternative thoughts that may enter their mind during isolation. Stacy said he asks his clients to think about what emotions they felt when they were told to shelter-in-place. If dread crept into their mind, Stacy said an alternative thought could be to feel that this crisis will pass and they are not alone.

In-person interaction is not allowed, in large groups or close quarters, currently, but trying to stay connected and keep a sense of community is important, Stacy said.

Another aspect of the pandemic is the massive amount of loss people are experiencing. Losing loved ones to COVID-19 is an unexpected occurrence, and how people deal with the grief is another thing Stacy said he is working through with his clients.

“The goal of seeing someone who has lost a loved one is, you work to help them essentially reconcile the relationship they did have with their new relationship,” Stacy said. “I’m helping my clients adjust to how life was and how it is now and kind of merging those two, so that they can move forward with their work and their families and their careers.”

Stacy said he is still seeing his clients in person and doing telemedicine for those who do not feel safe leaving their quarantine at home. If anyone is experiencing mental health issues because of the COVID-19 situation or other reasons, Stacy encourages them to seek help or some form of counseling.