Dr. Kenneth Yeager talks to Jo Ingles
Dr. Kenneth Yeager talks to Jo Ingles [Dan Konik | Statehouse News Bureau]

Coronavirus is Having an Impact on Mental Health of Ohioans

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Millions of Ohioans are staying home as ordered, as schools have closed, employers have ordered them to work remotely and entertainment options have been shut down. And hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs as businesses shuttered – perhaps temporarily or maybe permanently. All of these sudden changes are having an impact on Ohioans who are now living very different lives than just a few weeks ago.

Melissa Stroupe runs the Stratford Barn, a historical event space in Delaware County. These days she’s fielding calls from clients whose plans have been put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s tough to plan events that may not happen. Students are still graduating. People still want to get married. We are just putting it on pause for a little bit,” Stroupe says.

Stroupe is also on the county’s 4H board. And she’s the president of the Parent-Teacher organization at her kids’ school. And now that schools have closed, she’s juggling the needs of her 6th grader, second grader and kindergartner as they do online lessons through their local school district. But she draws the line at coming up with individualized lesson plans for each like some of her friends are doing. She is trying to keep stress levels down by lowering expectations and allowing her kids to learn organically from this experience.

“This morning, they watched several videos from the CDC and Mythbusters on handwashing, and while we’ve talked about hand washing since they were little, they can understand some of the science behind it.  That’s a science lesson,” Stroupe says.

Melissa Stroupe, Delaware, Ohio
Melissa Stroupe, Delaware, Ohio [Dan Konik | Statehouse News Bureau]
She’s also making time for herself to chat with her own friends online. Dr. Kenneth Yeager, director of the Stress, Trauma, Resilience program at the Wexner Medical Center at OSU says everyone needs to focus on their own mental health right now.

“It’s important to remember as we are focusing on physical health right now that there’s no such thing as good physical health without good mental health,” Yeager says.

Social distancing has brought feelings of isolation. Visitors to people in jails and prisons were banned early, and hospitals aren’t allowing visitors.

Jo Ingles holds sign made for her Mom who is in a nursing home
Jo Ingles holds sign made for her Mom who is in a nursing home [Roger Ingles]
But some of the sharpest pain is felt by people in nursing homes.  Visitors were restricted at first, and then banned for more than a week ago. Some nursing homes offer patients online chat sessions with families. And Yeager says there are some things family members can do to help prevent that isolation.

“Taking notes and signs of support and putting them on the windows of that extended care facility, standing outside and waving and understanding that, you know, we can’t be with you but we want to be as close to you as we can,” Yeager says.

Some Ohioans now find themselves at home suddenly because they lost their jobs. They may be fearful, angry or depressed. Yeager all the economic uncertainty, along with all of the sudden closeness, could lead to more domestic violence.

“One of the issues is when you are closer together in closer proximity, if there is a person who is violent, that person is likely going to be triggered,” Yeager says.

“Well, you know this is stressful for all of us but for some of us, we were already in a hard spot before this crisis hit,” says Lori Criss, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. She says the state is poised to help victims of violence as well as those who are struggling with addictions and mental illness.

“We’ve implemented tele-health services. We’ve taken every action at the state’s psychiatric hospitals to make sure we have a strong, healthy environment for people to get their in-patient psychiatric care and we are working with our community partners, local governments, the alcohol drug mental health boards to shore up the resources they need to be able to be open and provide access to care,” Criss says.

Lori Criss, Director, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services [Statehouse News Bureau]
Criss says people who feel like they are going to harm themselves can text a crisis line for immediate help or call the suicide hotline. And there is help on the website the state set up to deal with this pandemic.

“If they want to talk to someone for the first time or just have a safe place to express their fear and anxieties, I would urge them to go to the website, look at the resources tab at the top of the website, there are resources for adults and it lists a number of places that people can call for specific information and specific help,” Criss says.

This pandemic is far from over and even when it is, Yeager says most Ohioans will have lasting effects from it.

“I think people will lose trust and faith in the social systems and the political system,” Yeager says.

He says those doubts will likely stay as Ohioans, who will also be worried about the economy, head into presidential elections later this year.