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Understanding how social distancing can impact your mental health

Humans, by nature, are social creatures
Understanding how social distancing can impact your mental health
Posted at 1:12 PM, Apr 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-19 10:47:48-04

GREAT FALLS — Humans, by nature, are social creatures

When you hear governments officials asking the public to do their part and stay home to “flatten the curve,” it might sound like a relatively easy task. One month in now, and some people are seeing their mental health suffer as a result of reduced social interactions, even though that reduced interaction is saving lives.

Luckily, with the benefit of technology, there are now more ways than ever for people to stay in touch, which can be crucial for their mental health during this time.

“Any way to avoid isolation can include things like setting up a video conferencing call using Zoom or FaceTime or Skype, I mean there’s a million different ways you can do it,” said Benefis Health System Clinic Psychologist Dr. Stephanie Burcusa. “In some ways, we’re blessed that we have a lot of technology that we can use, so it does give us some opportunities to connect in a way that, 50, 100, 200 years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to connect. It has allowed us to have connection, even at a distance, and to still maintain our social contacts at a distance.”

Benefis Health Systems Clinic Psychologist Dr. Stephanie Burcusa

Benefis is now offering a program called “Coping with COVID,” which is a Zoom-based daily support group. Each day of the week, there are different times available for anyone that wants to speak with a professional, or simply needs some social interaction with other people that also need people to interact with. They offer general support classes or specific sessions, such as support for anyone that is recovery for substance abuse during social isolation.

You can join those scheduled Zoom meetings here:

Find support and tools for coping with the COVID-19 pandemic in the following weekly sessions:
Monday 11 a.m.-noon – https://benefis.zoom.us/j/616356288 Thursday 2-3 p.m. – https://benefis.zoom.us/j/648605460 Friday 1-2 p.m. – https://benefis.zoom.us/j/821768103
If you are someone who struggles with substance use, these two weekly Coping With Covid sessions are for you:
Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon – https://benefis.zoom.us/j/2214559090 Wednesday 3-4 p.m. –https://benefis.zoom.us/j/661392099

Dr. Burcusa also talked about the idea that there is a stigma tied to anxiety and depression, and that people may try to downplay the feelings that they or others are feeling, especially during this time.

“I don’t think that’s unique to the current situation,” Dr. Burcusa said. “There’s just a lot of stigma against mental health and substance abuse disorders and things like that. We have a strong tendency here in Montana to just try to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and just kind of push through it. A lot of people here don’t believe that those are real diseases or real problems that people have, that it’s just a mindset and you can just shake it off. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma, but I don’t think it’s just because of Coronavirus.”

Some of the things that you can do if your mental health may be suffering as a result of social isolation include sticking to a routine every day, even if you have nowhere to go, utilizing technology to keep in touch with friends or family, and reaching out for help if you feel that you need to.

Here are some resources that are available to anyone in need of mental health-related assistance during the Coronavirus pandemic:

Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 for immediate counseling in coping with the mental or emotional effects caused by developments related to
the coronavirus pandemic.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Montana Crisis Text Line: Text MT to 741741
Mental Health America of Montana Warmline: Call 1-877-688-3377