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  • Writer's pictureSrs of the Precious Blood

Mental Health, Substance Abuse & Covid 19

by Sr. Joanne Belloli

This article was originally published in This Good Work. Read the entire publication here.

Fear, anxiety, grief and loss, depression, loneliness, isolation, unemployment, underemployment, memories of unpleasant times — these are issues seen in mental health and substance abuse treatment within our agency since the onset of COVID-19.

I have ministered as a mental health and substance abuse therapist for 25 years, including outpatient treatment with Brighton Recovery Center and 17 years with Livingston County Catholic Charities in Howell, Michigan.

Our CPPS Way of Life states: “we endeavor to bring life, to nourish, to free, to heal, to reconcile.” These are values I attempt to exhibit in my work with others. They are values I assist others in identifying in their personal lives so that they may grow as caring individuals within their families, among friends and in society.

At Livingston County Catholic Charities, some of our clients have found the restrictions during the pandemic to be paralyzing; using coping strategies has become difficult. Parents have increased anxiety regarding children going back to school, home schooling and choices to make. We also noted increased anxiety among the senior populations served by the agency. Some experienced increased depression due to isolation from others or difficulty seeing family members. Those with chronic medical conditions feared getting COVID-19.

Some of our clients experienced increased irritability, loss of a positive attitude and loss of hope that things will change. With minimal interpersonal interactions, having more time with minimal activities and additional family stress, some may relapse into old thinking and behaviors. Some individuals returned to alcohol consumption and/or their drugs of choice. Strategies for sober living needed to be again considered.

The task of therapists and other staff is to listen attentively and assist others in considering alternative coping strategies and implementing them in ways of healthy decision-making, healthy choices and healthy activities.

Staff also became aware of their own personal vulnerabilities related to the pandemic. Each day coming to work meant temperature checks, answering various questions, face coverings and social distancing. This also meant creating emotional boundaries and making choices that support relaxation — listening to music, reading books, taking walks, completing puzzles, enjoying family, getting proper sleep, eating healthy food.

These are activities recommended for our clients and staff, calling each to LIVE ONE DAY AT A TIME, trusting that God will bring healing and reconciliation where needed or desired.

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