Dan Smith

Creativity Brings Connection during Physical Distancing

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

The author (2nd row, 2nd from left) stays connected with some of her co-workers on a recent Zoom call. (Photo provided by BCHD)

By Kerianne Lawson, Chief Programs Officer, Beach Cities Health District

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when the mental health community works to engage the public to reduce the stigma related to mental illness and remind people “you are not alone.” In 2020, these words carry more meaning as the world battles COVID-19 and we adapt to the Safer at Home health order and physical distancing. These tools we’re using to fight COVID-19, staying at home and keeping physically distant from others, make it even more important for us to stay connected and to reimagine what connection looks like.

Humans are pack animals; we like to be together. We are social beings; we crave interaction with one another because we need interaction with others. We weren’t designed to be physically distanced like this – it’s not how we work. You may feel overwhelmed, fatigued or irritated by not having your usual social interactions which help us maintain normalcy or can help us heal during a crisis. We miss the casual socialization of the workplace or standing in front of school at pick up time.  We miss the routine and ritual of an end to the workday and workweek and the opportunity to connect with family or plan fun outings.  I miss “my checker” in the grocery store.  These losses can have an impact on our mental health.

Humans are also profoundly creative.  Since the County’s Safer at Home health order was enacted, we’re finding new ways to stay connected and help each other get through this unusual time. We’ve dusted off some old ways too. People are checking in with their neighbors and families with phone calls, text messages and emails. Video calls have become common as folks connect via Facetime, Skype, Zoom and more. You may actually be more connected to the people in your life right now, even if it’s only through an electronic device.

We’re also learning to connect with each other physically, while maintaining our physical distance standards.  Communities are placing teddy bears or hearts in their windows to create neighborhood scavenger hunts for children. 

And what about the birthday parades? Last week I participated in one for the first time; it was very silly and honestly the most fun I’ve had in weeks.

During Mental Health Awareness month, here’s some things you can do for your mental health and someone else’s:

  • Reach out to your connections, whether you’ve known them 20 days or 20 years. If you can, commit to calling each other a twice a week, or better yet, set up a video group chat where you can see each other. Try to ask about their mental health and tell them how you’re doing.  If you need help, we have some conversation starters to guide your Wellness Check-Ins available at bchd.org/mentalhealthawareness. Make it a point to stay connected, even if it’s the old-fashioned way, using the telephone.
  • Attend a virtual event to learn more. At Beach Cities Health District, we have our Families Connected Parent Chat, in partnership with South Bay Families Connected, and other virtual events and resources. A list of events is available at https://www.bchd.org/beach-cities-community-calendar.
  • Recognize that it’s okay to not be okay and when you need to get help. Help can come in individual therapy, a group setting or through a hotline. It’s important to help people recognize when they’ve been sad about this more than is healthy and they might require some extra support. For instance, if you’re feeling so overwhelmed by the state of the world and your grief, anxiety and loss that you want to isolate even further, you may need to reach out for some extra support. If you don’t know who to call, BCHD has the Assistance, Information & Referral line at (310) 374-3426, ext. 256. Give us a call. We’ll point you in the right direction.

 

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