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Mental health pros urge sticking together

Star Beacon - 3/19/2020

Mar. 19--ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP -- Starting this week the Community Counseling Center took precautions in an effort to limit exposure to COVID-19.

Significant efforts are being taken to meet with clients remotely via telephone or video conferencing. In this scenario clients will remain at home while service providers meet them virtually from a remote location.

The building will remain open to a limited number of clients to serve those who require in-person care, and pharmacy partner Genoa Healthcare will also remain open.

Beyond these measures, mental healthcare professionals said it is important for everyone to take steps to care for mental health.

Paul Bolino, Community Counseling Center chief executive officer, said he urges people to get off of social media for the time being. We are dealing with a barrage of opinions and information and it is difficult to sift through, he said.

"Find a trusted news source, get what you need and then shut it off," Bolino said. "I find that personally to work. You can get entranced in this. Physically the brain and body are not meant to be hyper-vigilant for that long."

Joleen Sundquist, chief clinical officer, said it is important to maintain a routine and connections with people for support.

"People really need to focus on what people are doing well, helping each other out, being supportive, being patient," Sundquist said.

Professionals are working on creating a COVID-19 self help guide which will be distributed throughout the community, Sundquist said. Staff has done a great job of maintaining connection with individuals and other organizations, she said.

"Creating that connection with other people has been very helpful," Sundquist said.

Making a connection with nature is also beneficial because it helps reduce anxiety and depression, Sundquist said.

People should also drink enough water, get enough sleep and take breaks from technology, Sundquist said. Spend time with pets, take walks and sit outside on a lunch break, she said.

"Not just the fresh air piece, but the moving your body piece," Sundquist said. "Even if it gets to a point where we have to stay inside, moving your body is critical because it helps blood flow and circulation and all of the things we need to function."

For those who for the time being have to stay indoors -- whether nursing home residents, the contagious or the immunocompromised -- Sundquist urged people to find a way to connect with them. Letter writing might be an option, she said.

"There's a lot to be said in traumatic times for helping other people," she said. "It helps us feel better when we do something kind for someone else. Acts of kindness are more contagious than COVID-19. We have to really focus on that positive contagion and keeping it going. Without that exhaustion and fatigue is going to breed uncertainty and fear."


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