Any given day, we can turn on the television or open a news app and find a story about an environmental disaster happening in some corner of the country. Stories about wildfires in Colorado or derechos in Iowa are sad and compelling, but we don’t always give disasters much of a thought until they happen in our backyard. When a disaster does happen close to our homes and communities, we can be faced with threats to our physical and mental health.
Humans are resilient and can handle a lot of difficult situations. But sometimes we need to take extra steps to protect our mental health, especially when a disaster happens. What can you do to protect mental health in a disaster?
- Take care of immediate needs- Make sure friends and family have a safe place to shelter, access to food and water, and proper clothing. Make sure they have access to required medications or medical devices.
- Don’t force a story- It’s human nature to ask, “What happened?!” There’s nothing wrong with being curious, but it can be upsetting to relive the event each time we’re asked to repeat a story. Offer a listening ear if you can, but don’t pressure others into sharing. Don’t feel obligated to repeat your own experiences either.
- Avoid “doom scrolling.” – Social media and 24/7 news channels make it easy to stay connected and informed. But constant exposure to stories about disasters and other intense events can be detrimental to our mental health. Set a limit on how much time you will spend consuming this information, and get your information from a trusted source .
Most people will be “okay” after a disaster and find healthy ways to cope and adapt to challenges. If you or someone close to you begins to experience severe stress or anxiety, reach out to a local mental health professional or a crisis line. Each of the resources listed below have trained professionals ready to listen to you, provide confidential support, and connect you with resources.
988 Suicide & Crisis Prevention Life Line– call or text 988
Crisis Textline- text any word to 741741
Ohio Careline- dial 1-800-720-9616
“Have you thought about talking to someone about that?” If you experience anxiety, depression, or another mental health challenge, working with a professional can be very helpful. But navigating the health care system is not always as simple as calling your local counselor and making an appointment. You have to figure out which providers take your insurance, how many sessions are covered, and what your co-pay might be. If you don’t have insurance, there are even more questions to ask. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out your benefits on your own, so call the Ohio Mental Health Insurance Assistance office for help.
From their website: “This free service is for individuals, families, and behavioral health providers who need help understanding and accessing their mental health and substance use disorder benefits. Whether you have health insurance through an employer, a government program, purchased it directly through an agent, or are uninsured, we can help. We’ll help you understand your mental health coverage, assist you in getting the most from your mental health insurance for treatment, and facilitate investigations on your behalf if you experience treatment access issues due to insurance.”
Get started today by calling 1-855-438-6442. Recovery from a mental health challenge is possible and probable, and the Ohio Mental Health Insurance Assistance Office can help you start that journey to recovery!
Would you recognize the signs of worsening mental health in your friends, family members, neighbors, or colleagues? Would you know how to react and help if someone was experiencing a mental health crisis?
Mental Health First Aid is a course designed to help you become aware of mental health challenges and teaches you how to respond in both crisis and non-crisis situations. We currently have trainings scheduled through the end of 2022, and will soon be announcing our 2023 training dates.
These are blended virtual courses, where participants complete approximately 90 minutes of online self-paced learning before attending a six hour-long instructor-led training on Zoom. You can get more information and register for a training by clicking here.
If you have a large group that would like to host a training, or if you would prefer an in-person training, please reach out to Bridget at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has been live for nearly a month now, and individuals and organizations across the state of Ohio are working diligently to share information about this resource with friends, family, and neighbors.
This new, easy-to-remember number can be used by anyone in the United States who is experiencing suicidal thoughts, emotional distress, thoughts of harming others, or substance use concerns. When you dial 988, you will be connected with a trained counselor who will help you reduce the stress of the crisis and find local resources to help support you in the future.
Bridget Britton, Behavioral Health Field Specialist for Ohio State University Extension, recently sat down and recorded a PSA that you can use to spread the word about 988. Watch this short video and then share on your social media pages today! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fse9ryxGjz4&ab_channel=OSUSouthCenters
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been in existence since 2005. The Lifeline has been an invaluable resource for people to use in a suicide crisis situation, and now a new initiative has made it even easier for people to connect with trained counselors in times of distress. Anyone in the United States can now call or text 988 to reach the Lifeline when they are in a state of emotional distress, having thoughts of suicide, having thoughts of harming others, or having substance use concerns.
In addition to the new, easy-to-remember number, the Lifeline has expanded the services it offers. Traditionally, the Lifeline primarily focused on supporting individuals experiencing a suicide crisis situation. It now also offers support for someone who would like to talk through the distress they are experiencing related to anxiety, depression, or substance use.
Just as when people called the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (which will continue to remain in service), a person who calls or texts 988 will be linked to a trained professional such as a counselor, therapist, or social worker for support. These counselors are trained to reduce the stress of the challenge or crisis, provide emotional support, and link the caller to services in their local area for additional assistance. Research has shown that most calls to the Lifeline can be managed or resolved over the phone.
Help us break down the stigma of receiving support by promoting 988! There is no shame in seeking out support.
Here is a list of common signs a person may need to talk with a mental health professional:
- New or unusual fatigue
- Increased irritability
- Depression lasted more than 2 weeks
- Social isolation
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Difficulty following through with tasks at work or school
Most of these signs are compounded on top of each other and last for several weeks.
The switch to the new 988 number has been a work in progress for several years, and it will take some time to spread the word within our communities. You can help spread the word today by sharing this information on your personal or professional social media pages, or by visiting https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/partner-toolkit to find resources that can be shared at locations throughout your community.