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Susan Parmelee

By Susan Parmelee

This will be a year that we want to forget, but, unfortunately, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be with us for many years to come.

A large portion of our population has suffered disproportionately from this crisis, and I applaud those who have found ways to support others—grocery shopping for a high-risk neighbor, respecting social-distancing guidelines, helping a friend learn how to Zoom, dropping off a treat to cheer someone up—throughout the year and who will continue to do so through the holiday season.

Sadly, both overdoses and deaths by suicide have been higher than average since the start of the pandemic in March.

People with the diseases of mental health and addiction often live in the margins, with shame and embarrassment, and rely heavily on support groups and meetings that connect them to others who understand the challenges they face every day.

The majority of these types of services had a lag in moving online, leaving a major gap in treating these deadly diseases.

Thankfully, we found new ways to provide both professional and supportive services, but many have been lost in the shuffle, many may not have adequate Wi-Fi or equipment, and we have been faced with a new wave of mental health symptoms related to the overwhelming challenges of living in a pandemic.

According to a June report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of U.S. adults have reported struggling with mental health or addiction.

Many individuals and families who have no experience accessing mental health support do not know how to find services. If you or someone you know is looking for support, please visit BeWellOC’s website for a list of resources.

This is where our community has the opportunity to rise to the occasion and to take extra care to look after one another.

Due to current infection levels, we again are physically isolated from one another—which, as we all realize, can have negative impacts on our mental health—so we need to make a real effort to be sure no one is suffering from lack of connections or a lack of basic needs.

Please try to make daily texts or calls to at least three friends or family members.

Within our own households, it is important to not set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and to allow grace and acceptance for the emotions we have about this challenging holiday season. Gather as a family and decide which traditions and rituals you are able to do safely and then work together to schedule new traditions that you may choose to keep, or not, for following holidays.

Some creative activities I have heard about include virtual scavenger hunts, family talent shows, holiday-themed trivia nights, and driving safaris to find your favorite outdoor lighting displays.

It is important for all of us to look at a calendar and see upcoming events that will help to bring joy to our holidays.

Here’s a list of a few resources targeted to address various aspects during the pandemic:

  • Family Assistance Ministries is one resource for families in need of food and shelter.
  • The Orange County Health Care Agency offers mental health and suicide prevention resources.
  • Call 911 for any health or safety emergencies.
  • Contact the Orange County Sheriff’s non-emergency line at 949.770.6011 to request welfare checks.

Susan Parmelee is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Executive Director of the Wellness & Prevention Center: wpc-oc.org. She can be reached at susan@wpc-oc.org.

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