By: Alan Johnson, NAMI Ohio
As Ohioans slowly begin returning to work in the next few weeks, it’s natural to feel a good deal of anxiety and fear.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement this week that Ohio will gradually, and with great caution, return to work is no doubt being met with a combination of relief and concern by the most Ohioans, particularly those with existing mental illness.
While times remain uncertain, mental health officials shared with the National Alliance on Mental illness of Ohio some helpful suggestions to potentially deal with back-to-work worries.
IT’S OKAY TO BE ANXIOUS
“It’s definitely a time of uncertainty. The big thing is it’s invisible and unpredictable,” said Vicki Montesano, chief of mental health treatment for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. ”Anxiety and unpredictably exacerbate it when we can’t control the situation.”
Montesano says what we all know: “We look around and life as we know it is going to change.”
Dr. Douglas Smith, medical director of the Summit County Alcohol Drug Addiction & Mental Services Board, agreed. “One big message is its okay to be anxious. It’s part of the human experience and you’re not alone.” Smith is interim Director of Psychiatry at the Northeast Ohio Medical University and a NAMI Ohio board member.
Both Montesano and Smith agree that recognizing anxiety and fears rather than trying to ignore or hide them is crucial as the recovery from the long COVID-19 quarantine unfolds.
GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT
“You don’t necessarily have a panic disorder if you are a little bit afraid about walking into the grocery store,” Montesano said. “But it’s important to get help if you need. Don’t wait too long if your symptoms are serious and you’re struggling.”
“Therapy is helpful for insight into learning about oneself,” she said. “It can help you work through anxiety and fear. We are probably in this for the long haul.”
Smith said people who have mental health providers should keep in touch with them, even if appointments are done virtually through a computer or phone. There will be issues to work through, including dealing with the return to work-life balance, a new or increased workload, financial concerns, and trauma from the two-month isolation.
“They should be open and discuss their issues with a professional who knows them well,” Smith said. “They need to look for their support systems, including family, friends and NAMI.”
EMBRACE THE RETURN TO STRUCTURE
“Paying attention to our thoughts is something we are not trained to do,” Montesano said. “Temper those thoughts: try to find a middle ground. We’ve got a scary invisible enemy out there. But it doesn’t have to be like I’m walking into a black hole.”
“Be kinder to yourself. If you have anxiety, try deep breathing exercises,” she said. “Try to get back to eating right, stay away from caffeine and sugar as much as possible. Get outside and get some exercise and pay attention to what’s going on in the world.”
Smith said a big problem people have faced during the quarantine is a lack of structure in their lives, especially if they are not working or are working from home.
“Most people do better with structure in their life,” he said. “Part of the problem with the last six weeks or so is there has been no structure. I enjoy my weekly venture to Walmart, but it’s different.”
“Everybody craves that vacation but it’s different now that we’ve disrupted our schedules. Sleep is off, work is off, exercise is off. We must adapt to the new situation.”
GET SOME SLEEP, PET YOUR DOG
Both of those sound simple, but they’re invaluable, Montesano and Smith agreed.
“Sleep is very important,” Montesano said. “Try to do the same thing every single night. Have a routine. Turn off the television and the phone.”
“Embrace the structure, even if you’re not in the first wave of going back to work,” Smith said. “Human are social animals and we need some sort of connections like we have with co-workers.”
As for petting your dog, or cat, that’s one of several relaxation techniques recommended by both experts. Others are listening to music, prayer, meditation, mindfulness exercises and progressive muscle relaxation to ease tension in the body head to toe.
The 4th annual Suicide Awareness Bike Ride held in July and organized by Julie Deeds, her family and friends in memory of her husband, Dennis who completed suicide in October 2012, raised $10,200. The amount was shared by NAMI Four County, the Operation KAVIC (Keller Assists Veterans in Crisis) program, and the Maumee Valley Guidance Center veterans’ outreach program.
The first benefit in 2017 netted $325 and involved about 12 riders. This year’s ride included just over 100 registered motorcycles. NAMI Four County, the local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, has been a beneficiary of the ride every year. Last year, the net proceeds were split between the three groups.
NAMI Four County will use its share of the proceeds, which included a $2,200 donation from the Wauseon VFW Post 7424, to support both youth and adult Mental Health First Aid trainings that the group offers at no cost to persons whose work or volunteer activities may bring them in contact with persons experiencing a mental health crisis. Family members and friends are also welcome to participate in the free day-long class.
Each training participant receives a comprehensive manual on behavioral health disorders that has been developed to complement the class by Mental Health First Aid USA as well as lunch and free continuing education hours.
Keller Logistics of Defiance raises money to support the KAVIC program, which assists Defiance County veterans. The Defiance County Veterans Affairs Office refers veterans with needs that are not covered by the Veterans Administration to the program.
Maumee Valley Guidance Center veterans’ outreach program serves veterans in Defiance, Fulton, Henry and Williams counties and also provides referrals and assistance for services that are not covered by the Veterans Administration, including time-limited financial assistance to third parties for veterans needing help with rent, utilities, moving expenses, security and utility deposits, transportation and emergency supplies.
The benefit funding that Maumee Valley has received will be used to help veterans in Fulton, Henry and Williams counties who are not eligible for KAVIC program assistance.
Although Dennis Deeds was not a veteran, his wife Julie explains that he was very patriotic and had great respect for persons who served in the military. She added that she and her son, Justin, wanted to do whatever they could with some of the proceeds to help veterans, including those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and any other mental health issue.
Pictured are representatives of the three organizations that received funding from the ride with three generations of the Deeds family. From left: Rob Spengler, NAMI Four County board member; Jenny Hoeffel, manager of Maumee Valley Guidance Center’s supportive services for veterans’ families; Julie Deeds with her grandson Bronsyn and son Justin; and Melissa Martin, Operation KAVIC coordinator.
Ride benefits NAMI suicide awareness trainings, Maumee Valley Guidance Center veterans' outreach program and KAVICRead Now
A record number of motorcycles and riders participated in the 4th annual Suicide Awareness bike ride on Saturday, July 11. It took nearly two minutes for more than 100 bikes to empty the Wauseon VFW Post 7424 parking lot as part of the Team Deeds benefit. Julie Deeds and her son Justin and their friends organized the first ride in 2017 with 12 bikes participating. They organized the event to raise awareness of mental health issues and to prevent suicide, which took the life of Julie's husband, Dennis, in 2012.
In addition to the ride, Julie and her crew put together a silent auction, raffles, door prizes and food for participants. Registration was $20 per rider and $10 for passengers and non-riders.
Some 101 motorcycles -- many with two riders -- were signed up to participate in the 4th Annual Dennis Deeds Memorial Suicide Awareness Bike Ride on Saturday, July 11. It took more than two minutes for all of the bikes to leave the VFW parking lot in Wauseon. The Wauseon Police Department and Fulton County Sheriff's Office provided the escort.
WATCH A SLIDE SHOW OF 101 MOTORCYCLES LEAVING THE FROM WAUSEON VFW POST 7424 BELOW.