The Mental Health Consequences Of The Pandemic
KPBS Midday Edition / December 16, 2020
PHOTO BY GREGORY BULL AP
We’ve endured almost a full year of the world turned upside down. When we’re not concerned about our own health or our family’s health – it’s concern about finances, missing seeing friends and relatives, being isolated and wondering if life as we know it will ever get back to normal.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Today, a special program on mental health and the,
Speaker 2: 00:04 I have more clients with anxiety and panic attacks then than I ever have in 20 years of being a therapist
Speaker 1: 00:13 And Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann this is KPBS midday edition Burdens of the virus and unemployment way down on San Diego's hardest hit communities when I start,
Speaker 2: 00:32 Or I just start, I mean, I just try not to think about it.
Speaker 1: 00:38 Seniors struggled to balance, keeping safe with staying connected and we'll have tips and resources to help manage pandemic stress, stay with us for midday edition coming up next.
Speaker 2: 00:49 Yeah,
Speaker 1: 01:01 The holidays are often a stressful time. Feelings of loneliness or sadness can surface in the midst of our traditional celebrations. But this year, the pandemic has pushed that potential for discontent off the charts. We've endured almost a full year of the world, turned upside down when we're not concerned about our own or our family's health. It's concerned about finances, missing friends and relatives being isolated and wondering if life, as we know it will ever get back to normal already. Back in August, the centers for disease control found increased reports of adverse mental and behavioral health conditions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's what listeners told us.
Speaker 3: 01:46 I've been trying to stay involved with my friends, you know, on zoom and Facebook and things. But, uh, it's not like before. And I think maybe I have a low grade depression, but I also think it just may be lack of outside stimulation and a desire to do something, anything, uh, I'm rarely hungry. And I spend most of my day in the most comfortable spot in the house wearing my very comfortable jammies. And I know if I was going to see my friends life would be very different and I would be up in the round and doing things dressed that was Sam Johnson. This is Jessica Gonzales and COVID-19 has greatly impacted my mental health. I can't shake the overwhelming feeling of impending doom. People are dying. Families can't feed their children. I have those survivors guilt and loneliness. My husband still works at his medical practice. He was a hero, but he's emotionally absent when he comes home. I can't wait for this to be over for everyone. I cry every day.
Speaker 1: 02:52 Michael Dale Kimmel is a gay therapist with a private practice in San Diego. He says half of his clients are in the community.
Speaker 3: 03:00 The other 50% is more based on anxiety, panic attacks, people that worry a lot, people that are really anxious. And let me tell you, that's been really exacerbated by COVID. I have more clients with anxiety and panic attacks then than I ever have in 20 years of being a therapist today, we'll explore the various aspects of the pandemic's impact on the mental health of our community,
Speaker 1: 03:31 Our seniors, and our kids, and our experts will give advice on how to handle it. And when to seek help,
Speaker 4: 03:42 COVID-19 has impacted the Latino community in San Diego County at a higher rate than any other group. And the nationwide survey taken between April and November of this year by the national center for health statistics, about 40% of Latinos say they experienced anxiety or depression, Martha Cordova, who is a frontline worker at a senior care facility in San Diego is among them
Speaker 1: 04:06 To stay away from your family, having to stay home. And I mean, even though I haven't been staying home cause I have to work, but it's been really hard. You know, even for me at work, having to work with seniors, you know, and then having to go home with my family,
Speaker 4: 04:27 San Diego, Chicano Federation has seen firsthand how the fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic has gripped the people. It serves Nancy Maldonado, CEO of the Chicano Federation joins me now to talk about the mental health consequences for the Latino community. Nancy. Welcome.
Speaker 5: 04:45 Thank you. It's great to be here.
Speaker 4: 04:47 What has been the mental health impact? You've witnessed this pandemic having on people in the Latino community that the Chicano Federation serves,
Speaker 5: 04:56 You know, the, the, the mental health impacts have been so varied and, and at different levels. I mean, for starters with our essential workers like Martha, you know, the, the consequences and the fear of having to choose between going to work and providing for your family and knowing that you are increasing the risk of them being exposed to a potentially deadly virus, the, the impact that that has on so many families, um, across San Diego, I, I can't even imagine. And, and the families that we work with are the majority are working families and are, um, mostly essential workers. So we see that across the board and that, that fear and that concern, um, especially for their families.
Speaker 4: 05:37 When we talk about families, tell me about the children, how are they being affected?
Speaker 5: 05:41 Well, you know, we're seeing this play out in, in children in ways that you can imagine. So the majority of the, of the children that we serve are zero to five and they don't have the ability to express what they're feeling and what they're seeing. And the second hand effects of the stress that their parents are. So we're seeing a lot of behavioral concerns and in children acting out, um, and not being, being able to express, right, the, all of the, all of the emotions that they are feeling. And so, you know, in, in communication with our, um, mental health consultant that we work with, you know, she has expressed an, uh, significant increase in behavioral issues, particularly in these last couple of months, because now there's a culmination of everything just playing out and, and it's our children who are feeling it.
Speaker 4: 06:29 And when you're prioritizing the needs, um, to keep a roof over your head and food on the table, you know, seeking help for your mental health may seem like a luxury. Is that a common mindset in the community you serve?
Speaker 5: 06:42 Yes. What we're hearing from families is, you know, they're concerned for rent and food and bill assistance. And oftentimes once we start to talk to them, then we can start to talk about their concerns about themselves and their health, but that doesn't always come up at first because they are, they're so concerned about their family. And, you know, um, culturally, we, we also tend to, um, have a lot of respect for privacy and we don't naturally as a culture and a, you know, as Latinos talk about private issues or concerns. And so, um, you know, we, we don't, we didn't grow up, uh, understanding the signs and symptoms of, of mental health conditions or where to go for, for help. So it isn't mental health and actually just health in general. Isn't a topic that usually comes up first when we're talking to our families.
Speaker 4: 07:32 And, and how does a lack of access to adequate healthcare exacerbate that problem,
Speaker 5: 07:37 You know, without access to healthcare, health conditions are going to be kind of blasted on someone's list. Um, so if they don't have health insurance and don't know where to go, they're not always going to seek treatment right away, especially if they're having signs and symptoms of mental health. So not only are they harder to identify, but also they're going to be last on someone's list if they don't have health insurance. And in addition to that, we're, you know, we're coming off of four years of constant attack attacks on our community and the message being sent to people, particularly people who are undocumented, that if they utilize government resources, that it could impact their, their citizenship status. So we have a lot of people who are afraid to get help, to get, to seek access to resources
Speaker 4: 08:25 That in mind, what role can trusted community-based organizations play in and making sure people in the Latino community are able to access mental health care.
Speaker 5: 08:36 I think that's the ticket, right, is that there are a lot of community-based organizations who have earned the trust of our community, and we really need to leverage those resources and being able to provide referrals to where our families can go and being a trusted place where families can call and know that their information isn't going to be shared, that they did, they can trust in that. So one of the things that we have done is, is we have hired resource and referral, um, a team to field those calls and to be able to make those referrals and also to follow up because that's also a key to making sure that families get access to resources. It's not enough to just provide them a number to call. Sometimes people need that second call or that follow-up, or, you know, if making sure that they have childcare or transportation, to be able to go to an appointment. And that's, as community-based organizations who understand our culture, that's the role that we can play.
Speaker 4: 09:35 I've been speaking with Nancy Maldonado, CEO of the Chicano Federation, Nancy, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. There's the saying that we are all going through the same storm, but in different boats when it comes to how this pandemic is impacting various communities, hospitalizations and death rates among people of color is two to five times higher than white populations. We turn the conversation now to the black community where COVID 19 has put a spotlight on racialized trauma and health disparities, which weighs heavy on mental health here to talk about that is Dr. Brandy S peoples psychologist and author of a journey toward purpose and promise Dr. Peoples welcome.
Speaker 5: 10:17 Thank you. Thank you. I'm excited to be here. You know, you've spent a lot
Speaker 4: 10:22 Of time speaking with church congregations during this pandemic, from your experience, what types of emotional stressors are you hearing from people in the black community and how does that compare to other ethnic populations?
Speaker 5: 10:34 Absolutely. Um, well, I will definitely want to talk about the most unique stressor with that being, uh, racial trauma or racialized trauma. And essentially that is the ongoing trauma and stress from being exposed to the racism, whether that be in person or on the media, uh, that is a unique issue to African-Americans. And I've heard quite a bit of individuals talk about that and which they have stated they are exhausted, exhausted from seeing violent images on the news, um, exhausted from experiencing community violence within their neighborhoods. So that is very unique to African-Americans. Um, and also a lot of that has to do with unresolved anxiety, depression, trauma, stemming all the way back to slavery. So that is something, and it's a fairly new term. Some individuals have been talking about it recently, but we're living in such a different times, especially with the civil unrest. I think that's brought more attention. So the trauma because of racial discrimination and things of that nature. And tell me about the situation
Speaker 4: 11:49 And events weighing heavy on the mental health of black Americans during this time. Oh,
Speaker 5: 11:54 Of course. Um, the African-American community is very unique and that we deal with a lot of different issues, not just COVID-19, but health disparities, educational disparities, economic disparities, and what this virus has revealed is there is a lack of access. So all the things that I just previously name and with lack of access, that means, uh, whatever issue you may be dealing with may prolong and the longer it goes on the worst off your situation may be in addition to that, uh, we are also, we have stigma in our community stigma about mental health issues. So if you are experiencing something, you may be afraid to reach out and get help because of fear or shame.
Speaker 4: 12:44 I mean, you know, when you hear about how COVID-19 is impacting the black community and, you know, you're seeing so many people die from it, what type of toll does that have on the psychic?
Speaker 5: 12:56 Oh, wow. Such a great toll. And one of the things that I don't think has been mentioned quite a bit is the, uh, the feeling of hopelessness and the feeling of questioning life. Let's keep in mind, uh, with all the people that have passed away. There are individuals who've not been able to go to church with the church, being the hub of support and love and faith and strength. So you cannot go to church to be loved on to get that support that you need, especially if you've lost a loved one, but you've not been able to go to funeral services or to even celebrate the life of the person that you've lost. So the toll that takes on the psyche is tremendous, and we are finding new ways to deal with that loss, but also still struggling. So that's something that's definitely something to be mindful of in this day and time.
Speaker 4: 13:53 What are some ways you suggest people can eliminate anxiety and depression, and what's the best way to avoid emotional triggers. At this time,
Speaker 5: 14:02 There are apps that you can download. There's a organization nominee, also another organization, melanin and mental health, and an organization that I work closely with is bridges to care and recovery. And essentially what they do is they teach faith leaders, mental health, first aid on how to better assist those that are struggling with mental health issues. Those are just some of the resources. And I would also say to that person that is struggling, um, the triggers, maybe you need to turn off the television. Maybe you don't need to watch certain movies. Maybe there are articles about current events that you don't need to watch. You have to be very, very mindful of where you are mentally as well as emotionally, but I'll also add another piece spiritually. Uh, spiritual wellness
Speaker 3: 14:52 Is very important to how we cope and deal with issues. And I would definitely say lean on your support. That may be faith leaders that may be friends that may be reading books that may be exercise, whatever it is you can do. Definitely rely on those resources. I have
Speaker 2: 15:09 Speaking with Dr. Brandi S peoples psychologist and author of a journey toward purpose and promise Dr. Peoples, thank you
Speaker 3: 15:17 Very much. Thank you for having me
Speaker 1: 15:29 Feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disorientation may be somewhat new to many people during this pandemic, but millions of Americans went into the lockdowns and job loss and anxiety of this year already struggling with a variety of mental health and emotional issues. Add to that, the increased use of alcohol and drugs during the pandemic, and you have the potential for lives. Even those lives untouched by the virus, spiraling out of control. We'll explore what pandemic stress has added to the burden of existing mental health problems and the risks of substance abuse with my guest, Liz Kimball, a clinical supervisor and therapist with the national Alliance on mental illness, next steps program in San Diego and Liz, welcome to the program.
Speaker 3: 16:17 Thanks so much for having me. How
Speaker 1: 16:19 Would you describe the impact the pandemic has had on the people you connect with in the next steps program?
Speaker 3: 16:26 So at next steps, we work with people coming out of a hospital or recently having a crisis. And our goal is to help support them and find a new way to help get them more connected. I think one of the biggest ways that I've seen the pandemic affect them is that those connections that we all need so much have really been affected and really aren't there now, it's, it's really hard to find. And
Speaker 1: 16:52 Tell me more about what connections you're talking
Speaker 3: 16:54 About. I think we are, as we are all experiencing during the pandemic, we're being asked to stay home, or we're not, we're being asked to not engage with people as much. A lot of businesses are closed. A lot of the resources that we use have moved a lot to tele-health. And so those connections have changed. Um, we don't get to go and see someone's smiling face. We don't get to, you know, drop in, um, clubhouses. We use commonly and, you know, the, the clubhouses have groups online, which can be supportive, but also we don't have that in-person component. How has,
Speaker 1: 17:31 Is this lack of connection affected symptoms? The people that you deal with, how has it affected them?
Speaker 3: 17:38 So if part of depression and anxiety is already isolation and lack of feeling supported, then the pandemic has great potential compound that because we're also asking to be isolated due to the health, the physical health risks.
Speaker 1: 17:57 Now you mentioned that most, if not, all of our medical appointments are now happening over the phone or a video call for mental health patients used to in-person therapy and treatment, how is that working out?
Speaker 3: 18:09 So one of the things that research shows us, which encourages me is that teletherapy can be, or, or tele mental health can be as supportive as in-person. And that doesn't mean that that applies to everybody, but what we're finding overall as our culture changes too, and people are getting more used to zoom and phone calls that we are able to make connections with our people. And I think that we have learned a lot about how to help increase that. You know, it is really nice to have that zoom call because you can have that smile and facial expression along with it.
Speaker 1: 18:45 But I think a lot of people are asking this question, Liz, what's the difference between being diagnosed with mental illness, such as depression and experiencing symptoms of depression or sadness or anxiety.
Speaker 3: 18:59 Everybody can experience sadness and grief right now, a lot of us don't have the same amount of energy, um, to do the same tasks that we did before. We don't get to have the same excitement for going out and such. And a lot of those things can mere symptoms of depression. However, what happens when you're getting diagnosed is that we, it happens when we go to the doctor or your clinician, and they're looking at how much it's impacting your life. So when it starts to impact things like work and relationships, and, you know, we don't have the energy for those, then we, that would be when we would check in with the doctor and a diagnosis might come about
Speaker 1: 19:41 Now, many people, not only people struggling with mental health have found themselves drinking more alcohol and using more substances over the last month. How much of a problem do you think that is?
Speaker 3: 19:53 I mean, I think that we have like some kind of preliminary evidence and ideas that people are drinking more, but again, same thing with kind of depression. Like we're experiencing more of the symptoms, but where, where are these symptoms really going to go? And what's going to happen, um, in another three or six or nine months, like that kind of will determine what happens in our community and the changes in our community. Long-term like, we know, I mean, like people have more festival festivities around Thanksgiving, Christmas as well, but that doesn't always lead to people drinking more January through March, you know? So it, so I think we'll still see what's coming in the future.
Speaker 1: 20:32 If people are starting to feel the impact of sadness or isolation really affecting their daily life, the way that you've been describing, how can they get help?
Speaker 3: 20:44 One of the biggest things that we hopefully can access to some extent is our current support system. I know that a lot of us are kind of like, you know, you can say like you're zoomed out or that you don't necessarily want to have a phone, another phone conversation, but those connections, even if they're different right now can be so important. I think that one of the things that connects us all is that we all are experiencing the hardship of what's happening in this pandemic. And sometimes even that shared language and shared knowledge can be really supportive to understand why we're doing what we're doing, where we are in society in that we're not doing this alone. So I think, you know, staying connected and working on being connected, there's lots of, um, community support as well, where, you know, there's public groups through the clubhouses. NAMI has a helpline. You can call.
Speaker 1: 21:43 I've been speaking with Liz Kimball, a clinical supervisor and therapist with NAMI's next steps program. And Liz, thank you.
Speaker 3: 21:52 Thanks so much for having me.
Speaker 1: 22:01 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade. Heinemann our special on mental health and the pandemic turns to the impact on the younger generation. Ariana, who is in her third year of college, told us that her mental health has been challenged a lot during the pandemic.
Speaker 3: 22:20 Not only did I catch the coronavirus and I had to quarantine, um, right, as soon as fall semester started. So it was a little hectic. And then, um, towards the end, I went through a breakup as the man, I was dealing with finals and, uh, my family was also dealing with the stress of the coronavirus because they thought they had it. So I couldn't, I didn't have a lot of support. I was alone at home, dealing with my emotions and dealing with the finals. And it was very stressful. And I felt like I nearly had a mental breakdown
Speaker 1: 22:59 From remote graduations to zoon Kinson Jerez from scrapped proms to cancel the SATs. Perhaps no group has seen its life plans rearranged by the pandemic, as much as teens and young adults, the typical coming of age rights and ceremonies have been suspended, postponed, or just abandoned. Here's how Jean Twinkie, SDSU psychologist, and noted author of books. Like I, Jen characterizes the impact of the pandemic.
Speaker 3: 23:28 I think it's this generation's world war II because this pandemic is the biggest cultural event since world war II, in terms of the impact that it has had on everyone's lives.
Speaker 1: 23:41 But surprisingly 20 says the impact hasn't been all bad. If
Speaker 6: 23:46 You're a teen, um, still living with your parents, you definitely missed out on a lot of milestones and seeing friends and being able to go to school. On the other hand, you also probably got to finally get enough sleep and have some time to spend with your family. And that may have really helped with mental health and in a large study that we did, we found that teens were actually doing okay, at least in the spring and early summer in terms of their mental health compared to previous surveys of teens from 2018. But the picture
Speaker 1: 24:20 Is very different for young adults.
Speaker 6: 24:23 They're often out trying to support themselves. They were much more likely to have lost jobs in the pandemic compared to older people. And they're really struggling in terms of their mental health. Particularly when you look at depression, their rates of depression are considerably higher than they were in 2018. And that increase is a lot larger for young adults in depression compared to older adults during the pandemic
Speaker 1: 24:53 Teens and young adults realize that the pandemic has changed their lives, but younger kids may not children who are coping with distance learning, stressed out parents, not seeing friends and family plus their own anxieties about the future. May not even know how to express their concerns about any of that. So parents need to look for signs that their children's mental health may be suffering and take action. Johnnie Mae is Jenny. Yep. A clinical psychologist, author and parenting expert based in Los Angeles. And thank you so much for joining us. Happy to be here. Kids have had to deal with a lot this year in your practice. What are you hearing about the effects of all this change and stress in their lives?
Speaker 6: 25:39 We have had so many children who are, um, experiencing very high levels of anxiety and depression. They are stressed out from being at home, having to do classes virtually not being able to keep up with their work, uh, not having the social connections that they really do need to thrive. So it's a lot on our younger kids.
Speaker 1: 26:02 I think sometimes we think really young children don't notice all the changes going on. Is that the case?
Speaker 6: 26:09 Oh, most definitely not. You know, the thing about children is that they really sense everything that adults experience. So if adults in the household are experiencing high stress and anxiety during this time, the kids will sense it. And if they have no idea what's going on, they really don't understand what's happening yet. They're feeling that pressure, they're feeling that discomfort. They're going to show it in different ways.
Speaker 1: 26:37 And what are some of those ways? What are some of the signs that children are in mental or emotional distress? Children
Speaker 6: 26:44 Can show anxiety and depression in different ways from adults. Um, they can become irritable. They can have temper tantrums and melt down. They can be angry and aggressive. They can regress to previously acquired developmental milestones. Of course, of you're seeing children with difficulty sleeping changes in eating, and they're no longer enjoying things that they previously enjoyed very much like adults. Then, you know, those are also symptoms to be watching for.
Speaker 1: 27:18 How do you know when it's time to seek professional help for your child?
Speaker 6: 27:22 If you're not able to calm your child, if nothing you say is helping, if your child is constantly worried, constantly anxious, not able to sleep. If they're functioning is interfered because of the worries that they have and they're crying all the time, or they're just really irritable and frustrated, then it's really time to be seeking professional help.
Speaker 1: 27:46 You know, it might be a parent's first instinct to shield their kids from the scary facts about this pandemic, is that the right approach?
Speaker 6: 27:55 You know, it's, counter-intuitive when it comes to parenting, you know, what we think is helpful sometimes may not be. And I think we've gotten so used to trying to fix everything for our children, that we forgotten to let them figure it out and come to their own solutions, which is what is needed for children to build a resiliency and confidence that they need to meet challenges in their lives. So rather than shielding them, giving them correct information, giving them facts, helping them to separate the facts from the emotional turbulence of the pandemic and helping them understand what is happening in their developmental terms. Being able to communicate with them depending on whatever age they are, that's really important.
Speaker 1: 28:45 The social isolation we're all experiencing also of course, impacts our children. How do you suggest parents go about balancing their kids need to interact with other kids while also decreasing the risk of their getting or spreading coronavirus?
Speaker 6: 29:00 We certainly want to prioritize the recommendations from the CDC and the world health organizations though. There are many different ways that kids can maintain social connections. So some families have chosen to put kids in pods where there's only four to six kids in each pod, and these are the kids that can maintain the social connections and parents in these pods have committed to engaging in any risky behaviors that could endanger the other families in the pods. And if you cannot put your child in a pod, well, there are these FaceTime, virtual, uh, connections that kids can, um, maintain. And it's important for them to keep social connection with other family members as well. And that's a great thing about technology that we can use technology to maintain the social connections
Speaker 1: 29:59 And what are some positive steps a family can take, especially this time of year to keep kids feeling emotionally strong and healthy.
Speaker 6: 30:07 I think looking at the silver linings and helping kids to appreciate the things that they can control that are meaningful, engaging in activities that can help them feel connected with other people. I think these are the things that will help kids look forward to the new year.
Speaker 1: 30:27 Okay. I've been speaking with clinical psychologist at Jenny. Yip. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
Speaker 6: 30:34 Thank you so much for having me.
Speaker 1: 30:44 We know that COVID-19 is the most dangerous to older people. According to the Kaiser family foundation, adults 65 and older account for 16% of the us population, but 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the U S so keeping seniors safe from the disease is essential. And without the vaccine, that means keeping seniors isolated from carriers of the virus that isolation has gone on for months now. And some say it's almost as damaging as the virus itself, reaching out to older people who may be missing friends and family has become a high priority for organizations like San Diego's serving seniors. Joining me is president and CEO of serving seniors, Paul Downey, and Paul, welcome to the program. Great to be with you. Thanks, Maureen. What can happen to seniors who become isolated for extended periods?
Speaker 7: 31:37 Well, a couple of things, um, and in what we're seeing, uh, is that they're, they're developing depression, but they're also developing physical decline. Uh, we have our, our drivers are out every single day delivering meals. And in fact, I was, I was on a conversation with several of them this morning and they were sharing how they are seeing more and more depression. Uh, and, and it's for a couple of reasons, uh, you know, it's the isolation and quite often our delivery drivers are the only people that they're interacting with, but they're also heating the advice to stay home and to stay away from other folks. So, unfortunately, this is one of the cases where the cure is also contributing to the problem.
Speaker 1: 32:20 Now, your organization has offered meals and activities for seniors for years. How important were those activities in the lives of the older people that you served and have most of those programs in person? I would imagine been suspended.
Speaker 7: 32:36 Unfortunately, the, the most of the virtually all of the in-person activities and socialization opportunities have, have had to be suspended because of the virus. Uh, I would say that, uh, that, that the socialization that occurs in the senior center and in our housing complexes is as important as receiving the meals, uh, or any of the other case management services or anything else that we do. It's that notion of having to get up, take a shower, get dressed, go somewhere, interact with the world in, in some fashion, because, and then you have to remember it, it isn't just the senior centers, but for a lot of older adults, you know, going to the bank, going to the dry cleaners, running a few errands, that is part of their social fabric of interacting with folks because they may not have family and maybe a few friends. And so that is the piece that is, that is missing. And I mean, I'm, unfortunately, I think long after we have passed the immediate crisis with COVID, the impact of the social isolation is going to be with us, uh, for months, if not years,
Speaker 1: 33:48 You know, we've all heard stories about older people in nursing homes who may be the most effected by the pandemic isolation. They spend their days in small rooms without being able to see family or friends. What have you heard about how those seniors are bearing up?
Speaker 7: 34:04 Well, th they're running into some of the same, same, same challenges, and, and unfortunately there's some of the nursing homes they're also facing the very real threat of catching COVID-19. And so there it's even even exacerbated over someone who may be living in an apartment or in a single room occupancy hotel room or something, the mental impact. And it may be hard to kind of reclaim some of that mental acuity after months of, of not using it.
Speaker 1: 34:34 Serving seniors has been working on different ways to communicate with seniors who are isolated. Can you tell us about the program called connections?
Speaker 7: 34:43 Yes. So that's something that we developed to try to bridge some of that make that connection, that human connection, quite often, our delivery driver is the only interrupt human interaction. So the idea was to connect volunteers, to talk with folks, they commit to doing it, you know, three times a week. And it's really more of a check-in, it's not, it's not to be a, you know, a pretend social worker or anything like that. It's just to talk, you know, talk about the weather, talk about sports, it kind of whatever, but just to have that human connection, and then it has been, uh, you know, very successful. Um, but one of the, the big challenges that we're finding unfortunately, is that for a lot of older adults, particularly low income, older adults, they don't have a smart device and they don't have access to wifi. So, uh, we're not able to use things like zoom, where you could do activities. You could have multiple people involved, and we're really limited to sort of old-fashioned telephone calls. Um, and so that, that is really illustrating, you know, a major policy issue that we need to, to address going forward is expanding broadband coverage, uh, for older adults
Speaker 4: 35:59 Have any other advice about how the San Diego community can reach out to make sure our older neighbors are doing okay?
Speaker 7: 36:07 Yes. It's the Mr. Rogers advice and that's be a good neighbor. Um, now obviously we need to be very careful now, particularly now, but if you have an elderly neighbor or a friend, you know, check in on them in person, I mean, not, don't go inside, knock on the door, step back six feet and make sure masks are in place. Check in on them, just stand in, you know, talk with them, check in. Do you, you know, do you need some groceries? Do you need help with getting the prescription refilled? We need to make a special effort to, to reach out to them
Speaker 4: 36:40 Speaking with president and CEO of serving seniors, Paul down. Yeah.
Speaker 3: 36:44 Paul, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Thanks Marina.
Speaker 4: 36:57 And this is KPBS day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh, our special on mental health and the pandemic turns now to tips on coping during this challenging time, Jeremy Terry Lorenzo of San Diego told us about how her family is trying to take care of their mental health right now.
Speaker 3: 37:15 Oh, the kids and I exercise every day, um, every morning. And then we make sure we get out at least once a day outdoors to spend some time my husband's working at home. So he's at the house all the time, but we sort of ignore each other a lot during the day. And then we make sure we gather together at dinner every night. We also have a practice of, we go over, um, things we're grateful for every night as a family, we talk about things we're grateful for and what we're hoping for for the next day
Speaker 4: 37:42 In today's show, we've discussed the impact of the pandemic on those with existing mental illness groups, most impacted by the pandemic, along with children and seniors, but whether or not we fit into those groups most, if not all of us could use some help with decreasing the mental health impacts of this pandemic. Joining us with insight on things we can do to improve our mental wellbeing is Julie [inaudible], who is a mindfulness expert and the author of life falls apart. But you don't have to mindful methods for staying calm in the midst of chaos, Julie.
Speaker 3: 38:17 So happy to be here. I just have to say that I had my hand on my heart when I heard you. Intro-ing the mental health impacts on kids, on seniors on our most vulnerable, because that's one of my go-tos when I feel, Oh, that's so
Speaker 8: 38:36 Sad. One of my go-tos is soothing touch. So my hands on my heart right now,
Speaker 4: 38:42 Uh, well this, this pandemic has certainly touched so many people. Um, and you teach courses actually on mindfulness. Have you seen an increase in interest since the start of this panel?
Speaker 8: 38:55 Yeah. Well, our whole industry has blown up and I have to say that my colleagues and I have jumped into the breach in the most heartfelt way. I mean, I've been teaching for free for 10 months. Um, and I have a diverse cohort of people that really love each other. Now, you know, we've had tremendous loss and suffering and we're holding space for each other. I mean, it's, it's beautiful. And we see each other every week, um, March, April and may. It was twice a week. And then June, July, August, September, October, November, December, we're running all the way through March so that we have our year anniversary and people have lost their spouses. Um, people have been in the hospital and we're just meditating and sharing. And you know, of course I'm teaching soothing touch, which helps to regulate your nervous system. So like I said, my hand was on my heart.
Speaker 8: 40:01 It could have been on my belly or I could have been hugging my arms or I could have been cradling my face, but one of these things so that I would release oxytocin and endorphins to downregulate my fight flight freeze to make myself feel better so that I could then use another tool. So I teach those tools and try to remind people to write a joy list so that when they're feeling bad, they can look at that list. And if calling a friend is on that list, pick up the phone and do it or having tea or whatever, and then really feel what it feels like when you're feeling good. So that you're rewiring your brain for happiness and resilience. Like don't let the feeling good sift through your mind and come out, let it land long enough. So you can make a happy bridge. And don't forget to write in your gratitude journal every single night and try to do things for other people. And that's all important to make yourself happier in this shelter in place, isolation time when life is so scary. And it's not to say life, isn't so scary. It's because it's so scary.
Speaker 4: 41:15 And life is scary for so many people. What specifically are you hearing from people?
Speaker 8: 41:20 Loneliness? Um, anger. There's been so much anger and underneath the anger is fear. So it's harder to with anger than it is fear because you can, you could look at fear and you can say, Oh wow, okay. That's really scary. And then you can look around your room and notice that you're okay right now, anger, it's harder to move. It's like this big block of yuck, you know? And so getting underneath the anger is a helpful tool to try to manage the difficult emotion and forgiveness is a big, big one for this holiday season because people are so mad about so many things. And it's important to understand that forgiveness is a spiritual practice for your own self. You don't actually need to make friends with, or even tell the neighbor, the family member, that whatever that is on the other side of the political aisle, or that refuses to wear a mask. And you feel like so outraged that that's so selfish or whatever, like none of that story matters because you're releasing it from your own heart so that you can be more complete so that you can then step up and do what's right. It's complicated because it's not actually saying, well, I'm just going to let it go because it's okay. It's saying I'm going to let it go. It's for certain not okay, but I'm going to let it go so that I can be a more effective person and, and be the change
Speaker 4: 43:05 Julie, you, when you talk about, uh, sadness and loneliness and anger, you, you speak about mindfulness. Tell me what exactly you mean by that.
Speaker 8: 43:15 So when you feel those things, you're, it's not just intellectually in your, in your mind, in your brain, it's actually an embodied experience. So sometimes somebody will get like cramps or diarrhea when they're really upset or they'll feel like a constriction in their solar plexus, or maybe their jaw will get really tight. So there's a practice called reign where you're, you're naming it to taming. It that's the recognize it's like, Oh, that's sadness or loneliness or grief or whatever it is. And then if you can put your hand where it is in your body, that you're feeling it and send soothing, send breath, slow it down, calm it down, allow it to be there so that you can work with it and then investigate why it's there gently not beating yourself up. Not like you're such a stupid baby for feeling this way, but Oh yeah.
Speaker 8: 44:16 I really, I really wanted to be with my family this Thanksgiving or this Hanukkah or this Christmas upcoming, or this new year. And I'm not going to be able to do it. So on its face, that's sad. And then breathing mat and then the end in neuro in rain is nourish. What do I need to hear right now while I'm certainly not alone? We're in a global planetary pandemic. Let's, let's connect with the common humanity to broaden my perspective there, which is, uh, a mindful self-compassion piece, right? What do I need to hear Julie sweetheart? You're doing the best you can. Your best is pretty good. This is going to pass because everything passes. And then what do I need to do right now to change the channel, not to bypass it, but because it's crappy and what do I need to do right now? Let's look at the joy list and see if there's something on that list. Maybe taking a bath or getting out in nature. Maybe one of those things will help and writing that in the gratitude journal at night, I enjoyed this and I'm grateful for it gives it to bangs for your buck and then remembering to see if you can reach out and help somebody else. Cause it always makes people feel better being of service.
Speaker 4: 45:40 Now, aside from rain, another tool you recommend as meditation, um, it may intimidate some people. How would you suggest a newbie? Try it out. And how long of a time commitment is that?
Speaker 8: 45:51 So I, I suggest doing a guided meditation because you're just putting in your headphones and following the voice. It's very, very relaxing. And anytime your ma your mind wanders, you just go back to whatever the voice is telling you to do balanced mine with Julie potlicker is free. Insight. Timer is free. You can even search Julie potlicker at insight timer and find a whole slew of my meditations. I recommend 12 minutes just because that's what the science says. And any time over that is gravy, like I happen to love 20 minutes. Cause it takes a while to actually settle the snowglobe of your mind. But if you only wanted to try it for five minutes on insight timer, you could click five minutes and it'll give you tiles. Like, if you want to try one that helps anxiety or that helps depression or that helps grief or whatever, you know, they have like your, your problem does your, you can click on those. So, and it reaps untold benefits. It used to just be, Oh yes, your blood pressure's going to go down and your heart rate will go down. And if you have depression or anxiety, they'll go down. But now they know it actually calms inflammation in your body. It helps your gray matter increase. It keeps your telomere ends from fraying. So it keeps your brain younger. I mean, it's a crazy amount of benefits from just putting in earbuds and following the voice.
Speaker 4: 47:27 Hm. And you know, I'm assuming some of these are really, um, a part of what people can do to address their mental health at home. Um, at what point, or in what circumstances do you tell your students to seek further help and what help do you suggest?
Speaker 8: 47:41 So, um, I'm a lawyer, not a therapist. So I'm very, very clear upfront that I'm teaching skill building tools and that if somebody is suffering trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder, that they should seek psychological help, um, with a trained trauma professional, I want it to be a safe space. So the whole time that I'm teaching, I'm always saying when I'm giving instructions, you know, if this doesn't feel good, open your eyes, take a walk, grab a glass of water, stop the practice. You know, there's ways to learn all these skills safely, but there's a tremendous amount of trauma in all of our lives as well. And so I'm very careful not to cross the line into it being therapy.
Speaker 4: 48:38 I've been speaking with Julie, potlicker a mindfulness expert and the author of life falls apart, but you don't have to mindful methods for staying calm in the midst of chaos, Julie, thank you. Thank you. If you find yourself in need of mental health, help, NAMI can be reached at +1 800-523-5933. You can also find resources on our website, kpbs.org.