COVID-19 having an impact on mental health | Coronavirus – East Oregonian

Posted: May 12, 2020 at 9:45 am

This post was added by Alex Diaz-Granados

PENDLETON Most afternoons, Jenni Beth Brock sits down at her bedroom desk, powers up her laptop, slips on a pair of headphones and gets to work.

Brock, of Boardman, answers calls for the David Romprey Oregon Warmline as a peer support operator. She spends her days helping people deal with anxiety, depression, loneliness and worry. Bluetooth allows her to move around as she listens. She sits at the desk or crosslegged on her bed. Other times she goes outside and walks the property with her dog as she listens.

These days, callers often mention coronavirus.

A lot of the older folks are challenged with the isolation, Brock said. Loneliness is something you cant take a pill for.

Sharon Kuehn, who manages the help line for Heppner-based Community Counseling Solutions, said demand for the line increased from about 85 calls per day to 300 in the last couple of months. With support from the Oregon Health Authority, the agency was able to temporarily add staff and increase coverage.

Operators log every call. Loneliness, isolation and feeling shut-in account for a quarter of calls.

People are feeling isolated, Kuehn said. Were all having this experience of having a lot less contact.

Greg Borders, chief clinical officer for a crisis line organization called Lines for Life, echoes Kuehns observations. The Portland-based nonprofit, which operates crisis lines, has experienced a sizable uptick in calls. Lines for Life has a suicide hotline, Alcohol and Drug Helpline, Military Helpline, Youthline and Senior Loneliness Line. The suicide line has remained fairly flat, but calls increased substantially for the other four.

Were definitely hearing the name COVID-19 mentioned in almost all the calls, Borders said. Some common themes are fears around their health or the health of their loved ones, particularly older parents or grandparents.

Clinicians hear about financial concerns including drops in the stock market, job loss and the mechanics of applying for unemployment.

Callers who feel isolated are encouraged to find a way to connect with someone, maybe go through their phones contacts and reach out to anyone who might benefit.

We talk about physical distancing as opposed to social distancing, he said. We believe that right now is the worst time to be socially isolated.

Kuehn said the David Romprey peer operators walk alongside callers and help them process without giving specific advice.

We listen for the untold story, she said. You give someone your attention and its such an effective way of connecting and exploring their world view that they are able to see things about themselves that they maybe didnt understand before.

Borders said Lines for Life counselors follow a similar model, though they suggest ideas for staying mentally healthy during COVID-19.

Reach out to others, he said. Keep some structure to your day. Things that worked before COVID-19, keep those in place. If youre somebody that got up at the same time and went to bed at the same time every day, try to do that. Get some fresh air. If youre used to exercising, do that. Its so important to move. Try to keep your hygiene up. Change your clothes. Eat healthy.

Like Brock, the majority of call takers in both organizations work from home. Only those who have no private confidential space go to the office these days.

They sit down at the kitchen table or wherever, Borders said. If their shift starts at 8 a.m., they just plug in like they would at the office, and then calls start rolling in.

It can be taxing.

Its a lot to ask to have somebody who of course has their own questions, fears and anxieties around COVID-19 to listen to calls and support people for eight hours per day in their own home, he said. When you turn off your computer, youre still in the same space. You turn off the phone and youre still at home. Its hard to get a break from it.

Borders said working from home is necessary to keep call counselors safe, but they must get used to being physically alone and getting colleague support virtually instead of in person.

The challenge of that is were a model that is really built around the strength of the team, he said. Were all used to being in one room together where we can support each other when a rescue needs to be initiated or a difficult call needs to be debriefed. Weve had to be creative to come up ways to make sure the clinician sitting in their dining room all day taking eight hours of calls listening to people worrying about COVID-19 is getting the support they need.

For all the angst from callers, Borders and Kuehn notice silver linings. For one, people are reaching out to help lines and each other.

We are hearing a lot of really hopeful stories. We hear about people connecting with people they have not talked to in years or family members really rallying around an isolated sibling or parent or friend. Were hearing a lot of stories of resiliency. Its pretty encouraging.

Brock said she is there on the other end of the line to listen to whatever is on a callers heart.

I try to keep it to 20 minutes, but its more about the person than the time, she said. People have heavy things they need to tell somebody.

Continued here:
COVID-19 having an impact on mental health | Coronavirus - East Oregonian

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