National Alliance on Mental Illness Offers Advice to those Affected by the Pandemic

HYANNIS – The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Cape Cod has offered support and tips on how to deal with mental illness and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic.

NAMI is an organization focused on educating the public on mental health issues and assisting the families and friends of those suffering mental health issues, including addiction.

Jackie Lane, Executive Director of NAMI Cape Cod and the Islands, said that awareness and healthy coping methods are especially important now since many programs that usually provide for the elderly suffering from dementia or for autistic children are closed due to the virus, changing schedules and routines families may be used to.

Lane also warned that having no outlets like sports or social hobbies raises anxiety levels in families of all kinds as people are forced together during quarantine, working or learning from home.

“I think you’re going to find a lot of outbursts, a lot of stress, and maybe some situations that happen that are going to have repercussions after this thing is over. It’s really testing relationships within families, within spouses, within partners, with parents,” said Lane.

Lane said that social media and email has made coping with isolation easier for those who are looking for social contact or maintaining businesses during the social distancing restrictions, but also warned that residents should focus on doing hobbies offline when possible to avoid spending too much time online.

“If you want to exercise your brain in something else, complex music is a good one. Doing jigsaw puzzles as a family, that’s a fun one. Get out some board games. Read to your kids. Play scrabble,” said Lane.

Lane also suggested getting outside as much as possible if it could be done in a safe, responsible manner, offering that it is a good time to start a salad garden or begin some other outdoor hobby.

“There’s a lot of things that I think we’ve forgotten about. I’m old enough, so I haven’t forgotten about them and they’re things I love anyway. But, we need get back to some basics and use this as a time to rethink our lives if that’s possible, and make sure to include nature. To include those basics, and not just be wired and stressed,” said Lane.

Lane said that those dealing with isolation should try to remain informed on recent happenings and updates about the pandemic.

She said that knowing the facts would soothe anxieties more than full avoidance of news outlets would.

“People always fear the unknown. Even if there’s something that’s really bad, if you know what it is and you know the odds of doing something about it. To me that is being in a better situation than just having all these unknowns” said Lane.

“When they’re unknowns, anytime you don’t have accurate information, that void gets filled with all kinds of stuff.”

Lane said to always vet sources of information and to keep the consumption of information to a healthy level.

“Be informed but don’t be obsessed. Don’t listen to everything that comes across social media. Listen to Center for Disease Control reports, don’t necessarily believe what your cousin’s wife’s son-in-law said is happening,”

NAMI is taking calls at their office and sending out weekly newsletters during the pandemic to help support those who need their services.

They are adapting their normal operations as the crisis goes on, moving to a more remote format that includes calling and online presence rather than face-to-face meetings.

“We are here. We will take phone calls from anyone and we will offer advice and help. We are trying to keep totally current on what is available and how you access it, as far as mental and physical health needs. All of our services are totally free, and always will be,” said Lane.

Lane said that the idea of public health being a priority, both physical and mental, should continue into the future after the crisis.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native from Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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