Our physical health and staying safe is super important. But our mental health is too. Here are some resources to keep you safe during a pandemic. Some of these are specific to Pittsburgh, PA, where some of them are nation wide:
Peer Support and Advocacy Network - anyone who needs some extra support 1-866-661-9726 between 10am and 12am. 
Crisis RESOLVE - anyone experiencing a crisis or having a difficult time - 1-888-796-8226 call anytime 24/7
Disaster Distress hotline - SAMHSA - anyone experiencing a crisis or having a difficult time 1-800-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings - meetings start at 2pm everyday - call 425-436-6360 access code when prompted is: 422932#
Prevention Point Pittsburgh - folks with substance use needing help 412-247-3404
Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center - Pittsburgh (Tarentum area) anyone experiencing domestic violence 888-299-4673 or 724-224-1266
Center for Victims - anyone experiencing a trauma 24/7 866-644-2882
National Council on Problem gambling - 1-800-522-4700
National Suicide Prevention Hotline - 1-800-273-8255

How did we go from “2020 new year, new decade, new me” to tragic fires, tornados, earthquakes and pandemic? This has been a crazy start to the year, but that does not mean there is nothing positive out there. Nor does it mean that your mental health is not important.

For a lot of people, reaching out for help is super hard. Imagine you’re in a hot tub with some friends and the water is a bit more hot than you would like. Everyone around you seems fine, and you decide to just ignore it. People are laughing, having fun. You don’t want to be an inconvenience.

But the water keeps getting hotter. You feel a pressure on your chest. It’s hard to focus on anything but the pain. You take in a deep breath, but can’t get enough oxygen in. The water is boiling now as you gasp for air. Someone to your left tells you to get over it. If you are strong enough the water won’t hurt you. Another person hears your cry for help, but tells you that they don’t understand why anyone would ever expect help for something like this. They have survived a house fire, after all. What’s simmering in some boiling water? It’s just bubbles.

Over your entire lifespan you have heard this. You’ve been told that burn cream is for people who really have problems.

This is what is like to have mental illness. The people around you continue to turn up the heat in your hot tub. The stigma is so ingrained that people start to believe that it must be true. Soon you are burning yourself trying to live up to other peoples’ standards. It takes a lot of work just to get to the point of asking for help. The healing process begins simply by considering help. Making that first call is daunting.

But now is the time! Stigma is stunting, but you are growing. You flourish. It is time to get your life back and seek the services you need. But suddenly schools are shutting down, you’re working from home, being laid off, or forced to work despite risk to your own health.

Many people are wondering what their options are at this time. The answer obviously will be different depending on location. But here are a few things to consider when seeking treatment.

Online Therapy

There are a lot of pros and cons that I have heard about online therapy. Regardless of what side you fall on, at times like these it may be one of the only options.

This could be a temporary setback or frustration, but help is still available. Plenty of agencies are still accepting new clients, it may just have to start out on the phone or video. It may not be ideal to some, but it can still be the start of a powerful journey. Private practices are also starting to utilize tele-counseling. There are also support groups that have already been using the internet, while others have begun to do so with the current global crisis.

If internet is not an option, phone sessions are also a possibility.

In a mental health crisis, call hospitals a head of time

This may be different depending on what city you live in, but I know in Pittsburgh hospitals are limiting the amount of visitors for a patient (1 visitor at intake). If you are someone you know is in the midst of psychiatric crisis and requires hospitalization call ahead to see their current rules with this. Perhaps the whole family can’t come along for support. Don’t feel daunted. Your safety is important.

New info – Western Psych (Pittsburgh, PA) is no longer accepting any visitors for hospitalized family.

Keep your friends close

It may not be wise to literally be in close proximity, but that does not mean you’re alone. Everyone has heard self-care advice to stray away from facebook, instagram, social media. And if that works for you, awesome. But this may be one of those times where you actually try to stay connected. If the internet is triggering, reach out via text or phone. Find some way to gain a sense of community while being isolated.

Not everyone has internet, so I assume if that is the case you won’t be reading this. But perhaps you tapped into this at friend’s house or on a work computer. Unfortunately, outside of technology communication can be limited. But there is still snail mail. The post office is still up and running, and there is no evidence that this will be ending anytime soon. They already have a backup plan for if/when the postal service people get sick.

Write an old friend, pen pal, family member. It’s slower, but it’s something. Staying connected is a necessity for our mental health.

Do some research into the good things happening

Don’t get me wrong, it’s actually really important for safety reasons to stay on top of the news of the virus, however there are good things in the world as well. Do a quick google search to see what they are.

Provide joy for someone else

It’s hard to give back in times like this. A kind word and patience is of the utmost important. Whether it’s leaving your quarter in the cart at Aldi’s or being extra nice to the people who still have to work and risk their own health in times like these. Make some calls to the elderly people in your life. I know my grandfather is in Slippery Rock with limited supports up there. It is so hard for him to stay in doors because it’s very lonely for him. I don’t want to risk his health by visiting him, but I can still give him daily check ins.

Local and National Resources

Some of these mental health resources are for the Pittsburgh, PA area, but there are quite a few national resources as well.

  • Peer Support and Advocacy Network – anyone who needs some extra support 1-866-661-9726 between 10am and 12am.
  • Crisis RESOLVE – anyone experiencing a crisis or having a difficult time – 1-888-796-8226 call anytime 24/7
  • Disaster Distress hotline – SAMHSA – anyone experiencing a crisis or having a difficult time 1-800-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
  • Virtual Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings – meetings start at 2pm everyday – call 425-436-6360 access code when prompted is: 422932#
  • Prevention Point Pittsburgh – folks with substance use needing help 412-247-3404
  • Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center – Pittsburgh (Tarentum area) anyone experiencing domestic violence 888-299-4673 or 724-224-1266
  • Center for Victims – anyone experiencing a trauma 24/7 866-644-2882
  • National Council on Problem gambling – 1-800-522-4700
  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

Self-Care for Mental Health

This is hardly a new concept anymore. People talk about self-care all the time. Do something you enjoy. Engage in new (or old) hobbies you haven’t had the time for. Do whatever makes you feel rejuvenated.

For more on keeping your spirits up during the crisis, see my post The Importance of Self-Care

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4 Comments

    1. Unfortunately I do not know of anything that is free forever. HOWEVER, highmark and upmc are waiving copayments during the pandemic. So anywhere that accepts your insurance should be a viable option during these times. If you don’t have insurance some private practices will work with you on a sliding scale. But sometimes even sliding scales are hard to get. I wish I could give you a bit more info.

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