COVID-19 and Mental Ilness in Our Community

Contributed by Donna Michele Ramos

logo mentalillnessSo many people struggle with mental illness in our community.  With the coronavirus their challenges have gotten greater.  Since everyone is dealing with the stress of COVID-19, we need to know how to navigate through this stressful time.  As May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, we talked with member of the Stop Stigma Speakers Bureau, La Viola Ward about the impacts that COVID-19 can have on mental health.

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La Viola
La Viola Ward

THE HUB: We are getting so much information on how to maintain our physical well being, what kind of impact has social distancing and isolation had on people’s mental health?

WARD: I think there has been a tremendous impact because we are in unprecedented times.  People who have never had problems have been are experiencing or recognizing having difficulties and are aware of symptoms for the first time.  They are concerned and researching.  People living with mental illness kind of know, if they are not able to sleep it is such a real thing. Many people are now having trouble being able to sleep; it is trending and that starts the discussion.  It is a really stressful time; we are dealing with new experiences we have never been through this before.  It is hard to conceptualize until you are feeling it.  There has always been a large stigma attached to mental illness.  When you make it clear, some of the stigma can go because people finally understand.  It often takes having a diagnosis until you can put it into words. 

THE HUB: What are some of the ways we can talk to our children about COVID-19 so they will not be afraid?

WARD: The technique different from family to family.  On the website, StopStigmaSacramento.org  there are conversation starters.  Different types of starters may apply to different families.  I have a 9-year-old.  We can ask our children a question, what do they know about coronavirus and how they feel about it?  They are smart and aware.  A simple question can start an entire dialog.  As parents we can get our kids engaged in activities to keep their minds busy.  National parks have virtual tours, like the Great Wall of China. 

THE HUB: Are there any tips we can use to maintain our mental health?

WARD: There are free support groups, some operate 24 hours a day.  StopStigmaSacramento.org  is one organization.  You can talk to friends, we are self-isolating but we have to make sure we are not taking it too hard, do not completely isolate.  Talk on the phone or video chat, it is healthy for the brain to know we are not all alone.  Whatever specific needs you have, they are phone lines open 24 /7.  Human interaction is necessary for human development.  Reach out and talk to a helping voice.  Keeping a routine is also helpful.  Plan your day so you keep a sense of purpose.  It is important to keep a sense of normalcy so our brain can predict what will happen.  We have to take care of our mind and body.  I am fierce proponent of mental health, for the physical body to be OK.  Without taking care of mental health you cannot have one without the other, it impacts physical health.

THE HUB: We have been told over and over how important it is to stay connected to maintain all of our now distant relationships; how can we do this?

Ward:  Reach out to people, it is super important.  Social media is fine but it’s not direct to you, it’s not a direct connection to your brain.  Call friends and family and stay connected.

If you are interested in learning more about Stop Stigma Speakers Bureau or the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project, email email at christina.burns@edelman.com.

 Contributing Writer, Donna Michele Ramos 

Donna Michele Ramos

 Donna Ramos writes several (contemporary and historical) multi-cultural, romance novels simultaneously.  Her journalism career as a Senior Staff Writer/Reporter for THE HUB Magazine has yielded interviews with Maxwell, Venus and Serena Williams and HRH Sarah Ferguson Duchess of York, to name a few.  As a self-published author, Ramos received acclaim from Essence Magazine and BlackbookPlus.com by being on their best seller lists for her contemporary romance debut book "HIGH RISE".  Currently she is writing, "M&M: MADNESS AND MAYHEM", the final book in her “HIGH RISE” Trilogy, and “CHOCOLATE IN THE CITY”.  Donna partnered with another author, Brooklen Borne to write a 4-book sci-fi thriller series, "Absorption." Last year she was named “Author of the Year” by Write-On! Awards for Literary Excellence.  She states her next project is to "teach myself how to screen write so I can turn my novels into screenplays and submit them to studios and agents searching for fresh new scripts." Connect with Donna at: facebook.com/donnamramos1