Isolation is No Vacation- Drug Abuse on the Rise During Forced Furlough

Humans aren’t designed to live in isolation. We are social beings and that human connection, in a sense, keeps us breathing. A little over a year ago, we were full of breath, full of life. Our world, filled with school, sporting events, hanging out, working, and ceremonies, was brought to a screeching halt. This blow to the very reason we got up in the morning, had us gasping for air. What we experienced and what many are still experiencing is acute trauma. 

Experiencing trauma of any kind opens the door and possibility of substance abuse and addiction.

Feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, panic attacks and nightmares are all symptoms of trauma and that makes us feel out of control. And unfortunately, we were out of control. We had no say in when we could leave the house, if we could work, or even put food on the table. This is where comfort and control were found- in the use of alcohol and drugs as a way to self-medicate. For many, that form of medication claimed their last breath.

The CDC reports that by the end of May 2020, we had seen 81,000 deaths due to overdose and the numbers continued to surge during the pandemic. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is on a mission to breathe life back into those who are suffocating. They will direct $1.65 billion to prevention and treatment. Tom Coderre of the SAMHSA says, “We know multiple stressors during the pandemic – isolation, sickness, grief, job loss, food instability and loss of routines – have devastated many Americans and presented unprecedented challenges for behavioral health providers across the nation…we want to assure them that funding is in place to help states and territories provide pathways to prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services, especially for underserved populations.” 

Finding relief.

As life makes a slow turn back down a somewhat normal path for the majority of Americans, many will still be gasping for air and trying to find relief.  Trauma doesn’t disappear when the mask is removed. Find healthy coping skills that resonate with you.

Create healthy coping skills poster

Check on those around you.

Be their oxygen tank to life.

Be their relief as we all navigate toward the end of this isolated “vacation”. 

Mental Health Services
Your Way,

Learn about Ruby and her journey towards freedom in her relationships and childhood wounds through SouthEnd Psychiatry.

Millennial mental health. From 9/11 to Parkland, politics to pandemics, social media to telemedicine – this generation is set to positively disrupt the world.  We purposely built SouthEnd for a mental health revolution.

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Helpful Resources:

People searching for treatment for mental or substance use disorders can find treatment by visiting https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov or by calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The American Society of Addiction Medicine and Shatterproof have provided an assessment to determine need: 

https://www.treatmentconnection.com/assessment

Sources: CDC.gov

NPR.org– Pandemic Fuels Record Overdose Deaths: Coronavirus Updates

Vantagepointrecovery.com

Recognizing These Six Signs of Depression

Unfortunately, depression does not discriminate. This disease has affected the lives of over 300 million people worldwide. Just looking at statistics can be overwhelming, but it’s necessary to understand the magnitude of what’s happening to those around us. It’s imperative that we are in tune with the ones we love and cue in on the signs and flags they are metaphorically waving. 

6 Signs to Watch For:

Feelings of Worthlessness

When someone is constantly doubting themselves, never feeling confident in their abilities and their reflections are negative– this is a sign. 

Loss of Interest- 

When someone suddenly loses interest in activities that previously brought them joy such as sex, sporting events, hobbies, and social gatherings–this is a sign. 

Suicidal Thoughts- 

When someone feels they are no longer of use in this world, makes a plan, or speaks of taking their own life–this is a sign. 

Change in Appetite- 

When someone is overeating or undereating due to stress or anxiety, and these habits cause a dramatic change in appearance–this is a sign.

Trouble Sleeping

When someone begins to lose sleep due to daily stresses such as financial woes, work issues, marital or relationship problems–this is a sign. 

Fatigue-

When someone, rather they get enough sleep or not, has an overwhelming feeling of tiredness–this is a sign. 

Symptoms in children are quite similar, but we must keep a closer watch as 3.1 million children from ages 12-17 are experiencing depression. They might withdraw socially, suddenly become more sensitive, have unusual vocal outbursts, or feel overwhelmed with sadness. 

Regardless of the different outlets available to those who are depressed, 35% still receive no help. Listening is invaluable. Listen to your friends and family.  Check in on them and ask the questions that in a positive way, force an answer that will allow you to help. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

How can I best support you?

  • What specifically is hurting you? 
  • Who do you have in a supportive circle at work? At school? At home? 
  • What night can I bring dinner so we can talk? 
  • My calendar is open, pick a morning and let’s meet for coffee. 

Ask the questions, have the conversations, and tune in to those around you.

The flags will wave, it’s critical that you see them. Once seen, take the next step and have the conversations. Bring a certified professional in. Don’t be afraid to push them toward healing. At Southend Psychiatry, we offer services primarily online and in-person at flexible locations near you, and will be ready to support you and those you love on the path to mental wellness!

The Day is Coming- Let’s Cope with Heading Back

For most companies and schools, Labor Day is THE day. The day that offices and classrooms will begin to fill again. The day that many are looking forward to while others are dreading. The day where so many worries will surface and anxiety will take hold. 

Working from home and remote learning offered a safe haven.

With the deadline approaching to re-enter the world not as we knew it, there are elements that are likely to cause more worry. Public transportation, no reliable childcare, getting sick and lack of space are the most mentioned concerns when surveyed. Just like adults, kids have worries too, and we all need to know how to navigate through their feelings. Remember, that any anxiety you feel is normal. We love order, making plans and following routines. Upon returning, order-plans-routines may all be up in the air.  However, humans are exceptional at adapting. Remember that when you walk into the office or you’re preparing your children for class next week. 

How can we make it a smooth return to the physical workplace or classroom? 

  • Dress Rehearsal – Make lunches, lay out clothes, set the alarms and practice a dry run of an actual day back to work and school. Iron out all the kinks. This means stepping on to the subway or hailing a cab, socially interacting with others in public and then coming home to work through the feelings. 
  • Schedule a time to relax – As busy as we can find ourselves, make sure that you schedule in some time to breathe, take a bubble bath, read to the kids, go for a walk or just sit. Getting back into the groove is going to be exhausting and this time of relaxation is imperative for you and the kids. 
  • Maintain a routine – Being home means the routine may have gone right out of the window. You’ve taken breaks when you needed one, made an afternoon tea and possibly even had a lunchtime nap while at home.  The office and school setting is quite different and an adjustment will take time. Give yourself and the kids that time by establishing the routine now. 
  • Ask for the employer’s or school’s COVID 19 policy – Prior to returning, make sure you are well versed in what is in place to protect you and your children. If you feel uneasy, this is the time to reach out and ask the questions. This also gives you time to prepare yourself and the kids on how to handle situations that may arise as you re-enter. 
  • Show yourself some mercy – Don’t enter back in full force and go 100 mph because you’ve got a to-do list a mile high. Take it slow. 
  • Practice calming methods – Breathing exercises are key to calming down and easing your mind. Teach these to your children as well. Equip them with the same tools that you intend to return with next week. 

Remember, emotions and feelings are real.

It’s normal to be cautious, nervous or even weary, but it’s also important to be prepared to re-enter the world with a toolbox filled with the right tools. These strategies will help you feel some much-needed ease this fall as we try and learn how to navigate in another new normal. 

Helping Someone Cope: Providing Hope

Grief is not our friend but is certainly not a stranger to most of us. It has knocked on our door and walked right in without an invitation, never facing a warm welcome. When those we love are grieving a loss and trying to cope, words can fail us. While there is no perfect response to one of the most challenging emotions we experience as humans, we can offer hope in the ways we help.

Communicate

Someone suffering a loss will feel alone and may even want to be alone, but a phone call, text, or card can provide a sense of comfort. Fear can sometimes creep in, making us think we will say the wrong thing or convey the wrong message. Don’t let this prevent you from reaching out. The reaching out is the comfort. A smile, hug, and just being present and available helps those grieving know you see their grief and remember their pain.

Serve

Cook a meal, pick the kids up from school, mow their lawn, or run errands. It helps the griever when we do, rather than ask. Acts of service speak for themselves when words are lost.

Listen

Hear their words. Hear their cries. Hear their laughs. Hear their silence. Be available and make it known that you are there to listen.

Provide

Ongoing support is critical. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, any way you choose to do this will provide a sense of hope and a brace of connection. Mark important days such as birthdays on your calendar, and send a text or make a call to let those grieving know you remember their loss. 

Helping Someone Cope

Grief will almost always overstay its welcome. When we communicate, serve, listen, and provide comfort to those suffering an unwelcome visit from grief, we offer validation while acknowledging that what they are feeling is important and real. And although we know the process of grieving takes time, the time we take to help someone cope will offer them something they desperately need during this time: HOPE.

Our Resilient Children Need Healthy Parents

As we trudge (seems an appropriate verb, some days) through the first months of a new year, we’re still blanketed by many of our old stresses. The environment is hard for mothers and fathers who have seen their routines and schedules materially disrupted.  And so I’m led to remind you all – THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT. So, what in the world do I mean by those words, exactly?

I mean…. Breathe. Pause. Be patient. We’re still in the midst of the pandemic. Our socio-political landscape remains volatile. Unemployment won’t be a quick fix either. Further, our children are still challenged with the uncanny mixture of in-person vs. remote class learning.  The point is that we have a chance to set our expectations properly, for the long term, so we can be the best parents we can be for our children. So, to be direct, I encourage you to settle in, accept this new normalcy and stop waiting for things to be “normal” again. Our kids are resilient and they need us to be well strong and healthy! 

UNPLUG

If you are unbalanced and unwell as a mother or father, it makes sense that you won’t be fit to best care for your children and healthily guide them through these rough waters. One option we all have from time to time is to unplug, whatever that means for you. And do it without guilt! Not always easy as a parent, I know… But the fact is we are all juggling so much and every person must have a healthy path to recharge and reset. Just do so with open communication… but taking the necessary “me time” is a MUST!

POSITIVITY IS A CHOICE

This is the one which sometimes hits me between the eyes, figuratively speaking. Specifically, we all have the ability to choose where our mental + emotional focus lie – in the negative or the positive. The world isn’t going to change, but where I spend my energy can, and I want to be sure to spend it well. For a real-life example, I have a high-stress career which I absolutely love with all of my soul. One trade-off is that for several years of my young son’s life I didn’t see him very much. A little bit in the morning, and an hour or two before bedtime in the evenings at best. Ugh. But today, as so much of our lives (including my practice!) is remote/virtual, I’m blessed to be with my son at home more, knowing he’s just in the other room. This is precious time to me and I’m choosing to find the GRATITUDE in it.

BOUNDARIES ARE OK

This idea relates to my previous thoughts on unplugging. I’m giving you room, right here, right now – to set healthy boundaries when and where you need them. One boundary may be taking the room to be imperfect. To make mistakes. To get bad news. Please let me remind you – SETBACKS DO NOT EQUAL FAILURE. Setbacks do not equal failure. I said it twice because I’m making a point. And as always, when considering your partner and loved ones, keeping open communication is healthy when defining what your boundaries are, but self care cannot be understated these days.

Self care tips for parents

I hope you took even a bit of encouragement away from this article – I know firsthand how hard parenting in this environment can be. But I thank you for being part of the SouthEnd journey!