As the COVID-19 pandemic increases stressors and national mitigation efforts force individuals into isolation, professionals report increasing cases of mental health crises.
According to a recent study by Mental Health America, the number of adults in the United States experiencing a mental health illness increased from 45 million to 47 million in the past year.
“Humans are wired for connection,” said Mary Vice, a Livermore-based marriage and family therapist. “The isolation and any feelings coming from that are completely normal and would be strange not to have.”
The main mental health issues Vice has seen as a result of the pandemic are increases in substance abuse and suicidality. Other prevalent issues include anxiety, depression, relationship stress, insomnia, unemployment stress and a surfacing of general trauma.
Vice encourages her patients to find ways to maintain social connection virtually, such as through phone calls with family members or connecting with churches or other groups.
If professional support is an option, Vice highly recommends utilizing that resource.
“There’s nothing wrong with seeking help or support for this very unnatural shelter-in-place because we’re built to connect with other humans,” she said.
Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services
One mental health resource available to the community is Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Services (BHCS).
According to its website, the BCHS’s mission is to “maximize the recovery, resilience and wellness of all eligible Alameda County residents who are developing or experiencing serious mental health, alcohol or drug concerns.”
The BCHS website offers several resources for Alameda County residents, including crisis support and helplines for mental health and substance-use treatment.
For more information, visit www.acbhcs.org.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
The Tri-Valley affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Tri-Valley) provides advocacy, support and resources for families and individuals impacted by mental illnesses.
Specifically, the nonprofit organizes support groups and workshops for family caregivers and individuals living with mental illnesses. Volunteers at NAMI Tri-Valley also connect members of the community who are looking for further help with other mental health resources.
When shelter-in-place went into effect, NAMI Tri-Valley adapted by moving its resources and peer groups to online formats. The group now meets via Zoom for all workshops and peer groups, according to NAMI Tri-Valley Second Vice President Marsha McInnis.
“These are human problems, and human connections that aren’t happening,” McInnis said. “We can’t do it in person, so we’re on Zoom.”
Heightened isolation has been particularly difficult for senior members of the community who may be more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, according to Vice.
“(Seniors) are facing mortality, isolation and loneliness,” Vice said. “They’re almost feeling like pariahs just because they’re elderly.”
The Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley (SSPTV) provides a line Tri-Valley residents over the age of 60 can call for senior-specific resources at 925-931-5379.
Alameda County senior citizens can also access a list of resources available to seniors organized by Alameda County Area Agency on Aging at https://bit.ly/Indy_SeniorResources.