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By Collin Breaux

Mental health issues are increasing during the coronavirus pandemic, several local mental health service providers recently confirmed.

Anxiety and stress were cited in particular by South Orange County professionals when reached for comment. William Martin, a psychologist based in San Clemente, said people are reacting to the unknown factor now in the world and rapid changes to daily life, with schools, gyms and businesses closed.

“A lot of people are struggling with boredom,” Martin said.

Martin also noted the end or change to routines is also causing issues. Mental health tips recommended by Martin include exercising in the home, taking up old hobbies such as reading, and stopping to take deep breaths.

Martin also said while people need to be aware of guidelines for safety, they shouldn’t panic.

“Rather than overreacting, we should recognize we need to be cautious,” Martin said.

Mary Naimie, a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist also based in San Clemente, said there has been a decrease in people reaching out for help despite an increase in need. People sometimes go into a shelter-in-place mood when trauma initially occurs, Naimie said.

“Everybody is in a trauma mode right now,” Naimie said.

More people could begin reaching out in the next few weeks as they adjust to the new world, said Naimie, who still sees regular clients.

Naimie and other mental health experts compared responses to the pandemic as similar to the stages of grief. Recommendations for self-care depend on where someone is in those stages, Naimie said. Anxious people should minimize the amount of information they take in about the pandemic, and general tips include getting outside while maintaining a safe distance, staying busy and productive, and continuing to socialize through technology.

“You can do Zoom meetings,” Naimie said. “You can sit on your porch a safe distance away from neighbors and say hello to people.”

Teenagers should keep schedules similar to their old ones while doing online education, and adults should be mindful young children pick up on their emotions.

Gayle Hillyard, a therapist in Dana Point, said everyone is handling their crisis mode differently, with some initially panicking before accepting the situation and others not having much of an initial reaction. Depression is also increasing, Hillyard said.

During the pandemic, local experts recommend people turn to telehealth, which enables patients and clinicians to communicate electronically about health-related services and issues.

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