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Mental Health Resources Available During Holidays

Two people on video call
Mental health experts suggest checking-in on loved ones as the holiday season compounds stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Anna Shvets)

Mental health experts say it’s common for people to experience heightened levels of stress during the holiday season, as the days get colder and shorter and people make travel plans and prepare for complicated family dynamics.

This year, that stress is compounded by the emotional impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. National surveyshave found that adults in the United States are more than three times as likely to report anxiety and depression during the pandemic. 

“There's always going to be stress for mental health during the holidays, but now it's just exacerbated,” said Rachel Beck-Berman, team lead for the Virginia COPES warmline with Mental Health America of Virginia.

For many, the typical stresses of travel planning and gift shopping are exacerbated this year, as they find themselves either overworked or out of work. There’s also the fear of contracting the virus, and confronting the trauma of having lost a loved one to the pandemic.

On the other hand, many Virginians will spend the holidays isolated at home out of precaution. Beck-Berman says that can be tough for those who need support, especially at a time when there is a high expectation for social interaction.

“That can be really difficult for anybody who is in recovery, and that’s a broad statement that includes people who’ve experienced issues with substance abuse, people who’ve experienced depression, anxiety.” she said.

She recommends checking-in on loved ones with video conferencing apps, such as Zoom, Google Meets and Facetime, and taking advantage of virtual support groups. Beck-Berman says there are also several phone lines to call for support.

These include the Virginia COPES warmline -- 877-349-6428 -- which is geared specifically towards stress related to the pandemic. There’s also the MHAVpeer-run warmline -- 866-400-6428 -- and the Alive RVApeer-run warmline for folks recovering from addiction -- 833-473-3782.

“When we are stuck at home, and we are feeling stressed, and all that we see on the news can be very stressful, it can really help to talk to somebody and hear that, no, it's not just you,” Beck-Berman said. “People are experiencing this, and we need to focus on ways we can take care of ourselves and each other.”

To help battle isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia COPES also recommends checking out virtual museum tours, listening to guided meditation and relaxing music, taking advantage of free online workoutsand spending plenty of time outdoors.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak to a certified listener. Veterans and service members can press 1.
To connect to someone by text, send HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

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