• ebhowell

When the Storm of Despair Hangs Around

Updated: Aug 8, 2020

3 Mental Health Tips to Stay Afloat during COVID-19 Pandemic

Pandemic related mental health conditions range from increased isolation, mounting anxiety, and inability to find affordable mental health counseling. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Ultimately, the psychological impact of the pandemic will harm far more people than the virus itself. And the widespread emotional trauma it’s evoking will be long lasting, experts say. Already, more than 4 in 10 Americans say that “stress related to the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.”

These factors bring people with mental health challenges into a high risk category, including: self-harm, turning to alcohol and substance-use to self-medicate and suicide. According to recent research by Well Being Trust who studied the ripple effect of COVID-19 and coined the phrase, “Deaths of despair.” They explained, “Deaths of despair are tied to multiple factors, like unemployment, fear and dread, and isolation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were already an unprecedented number of deaths of despair. We wanted to estimate how this pandemic would change that number moving forward," said Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer for the Well Being Trust.

COVID-19 has directly claimed tens of thousands of U.S. lives, but conditions could lead to 75,000 deaths from drug or alcohol abuse and suicide, new research suggests, - Serena Gordon, Healthday

Those with mental health challenges are in knots thinking about their physical safety and others. We wonder- will we or won’t survive the pandemic, emotionally, financially and physically.

Here are three tips to avoid despair and discover peaceful waters:

1) Be your own motivator - If you are isolated and spending more time alone, spur yourself to get outside and interacts with friends, even if they stand six feet away. Set a goal to get out of the house once a day, breath the summer air, smell the garden or even smell the stinky garbage. Tingle your nose hairs to feel more alive.

2) Be your own judge - Don’t let others determine what is safe or good for you or risky, like taking a plane ride to visit a relative. And, likewise if you see people doing something that you think is unsafe, like hugging a neighbor. Remind yourself that you can only take care of yourself: eat healthy meals, enjoy some outdoor time, exercise and sleep. If possible, walk barefoot and ground yourself back to the earth.

3) Be tough –This pandemic can bring out the worst in some people. Manners have flown out the window. It’s time to grow some thick skin and know that when a friend or a stranger makes a quippy remark, it is not about you, it is about this miserable time. Most people are not thinking about your well-being and you should think less about your feelings, too. Like Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.”

Long Road Ahead

We might have a long way to go until we are able to put our masks away. Take care of yourself, your emotions and your core as much as you are protecting yourself from the virus. Motivating yourself, kindly judging yourself and others and becoming human teflon is no simple task. Maybe if we work on these areas, plus add your own goals, time will pass and the pandemic could be a time of self-awareness and improvement.

Resources: You are not Alone

If you are feeling alone and thinking about harming yourself, please call this hotline

1-800-950-NAMI or visit NAMI’s website. You are not alone.

The helpline at Provident includes a text service (text TalkWithUs to 66746). That service received nearly 30,000 texts last month, compared with fewer than 2,000 in the same period last year.

Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741), used primarily by young people in emotional distress, conducted more than 180,000 text conversations last month, up 30% from last year.

E.B. HOWELL is the author of As Much as I Care to Remember, a novel based on her own experiences with bipolar disorder. Raised in Winston-Salem, NC, E.B. graduated from Furman University in Greenville, SC, and obtained her master’s in journalism and public policy at American University in Washington, DC. She moved to New York City where she assisted health organizations with patient advocacy, serving as the Scientific Communications Director of the National Kidney Foundation and as a Communication Specialist at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund. The unifying thread to Howell’s career in patient advocacy is her experience generating awareness for public health issues by developing and disseminating health messaging locally and globally. E.B. currently works in healthcare and lives in Beaufort, SC, with her husband. Learn more about E.B. Howell at and on Facebook and Twitter.

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