|May Is Mental Health Month; Time to Maintain 'Connection' During Pandemic|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
06:30PM / Thursday, April 30, 2020
|Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, seen on Wednesday, spoke at Thursday's press briefing about mental health issues and the resources available.|
BOSTON — You do not hear much about the up side of a global pandemic, but Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday was able to inject a note of levity into his daily COVID-19 update.
"I've tried for years to get my three kids to read books — wildly unsuccessfully," Baker said. "My daughter and a friend of hers [recently] decided to start a book club because it would give the two of them plus a number of their friends a reason to chat every night, something to talk about.
"They have now been reading books for a couple of weeks, talking every single night about what they're reading in the books they've got. They even asked me what I would recommend that they read.
"Honestly, it's a really good thing. It might be the only good thing that's come out of this."
Baker made that point to follow up on Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders' discussion of one of the many bad things to come out of the COVID-19 crisis: its impact on mental health.
Sudders used the occasion of Friday's start to National Mental Health Month to talk about the resources available to Massachusetts residents and the importance of maintaining one's mental health during the pandemic.
"Connect with others," Sudders said, opening the door for Baker's family anecdote. "Connection is what we're about. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you're feeling. And call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of how you're feeling about how you get through your daily life.
"It's very important as we get through this pandemic that we need to take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically."
Sudders reminded residents that part of the commonwealth's response to COVID-19 early on was the creation of resources, including CALL-2-TALK, a mental health resource line also reachable through the state's 211 line and mass.networkofcare.org
, a searchable online database that can also be found through the mass.gov website.
Those efforts are mirrored locally by the work of Berkshire County non-profits
the Brien Center and National Alliance on Mental Illness Berkshire County, both of which recognized early on that the pandemic would both challenge their ability the existing needs of area residents and create new demands for mental health services.
Those expectations seem to be panning out.
"Nearly half of Americans report that the coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, as reported in an issue paper by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April," Sudders said.
Anxiety, grief, fears of economic insecurity and feelings of isolation stemming from the social isolation needed to combat the novel coronavirus are real, Sudders said.
And in addition to the resources and counselling opportunities available, Sudders offered some tips to address your mental health.
"It's important to take care of yourself, your friends and your family," she said. "And it's difficult to take care of others if you aren't kind to yourself.
"No offense to my friends in the media, but take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing or reading constantly about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. It's OK to turn things off.
"Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch. Meditate — whatever helps you, sort of, calm down. Try to eat healthy. Exercise. Get plenty of sleep. And avoid excessive alcohol or drugs. It's OK to take a walk or sit outside — in good weather, perhaps not today. It's important to take time to unwind."