Besides the physical threat posed by the coronavirus, there is the mental health impact to deal with as well.

We’ve seen Douglas County residents at their best through efforts that are bringing joy to the community, such as the Helping Hands of Alexandria initiatives. We’ve heard other stories about people who are looking out for the elderly and connecting with residents in nursing homes. We know of creative ways teachers are reaching out to children as part of distance learning. We know of groups of friends that are still getting together virtually through video conferencing, playing games and socializing with their friends from their own homes.

We need these kinds of efforts to help lessen the mental health toll the pandemic is causing.

Health officials say that levels of anxiety, stress and worry are increasing around the world. Social distancing, while absolutely needed, may, over time, lead to stress, anxiety and depression.

“Nationally, online screenings for anxiety have increased by nearly 20% over the last few weeks, and for many, social distancing inevitably means isolation and loneliness,” said Shannah Mulvihill, Mental Health Minnesota’s executive director. “It’s essential that people take care of their mental health as well as their physical health at this time, and we are working to share information, resources and suggestions that can help with that.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Mental Health Minnesota, the state’s first mental health advocacy and education organization,

offers these suggestions for managing mental health concerns during COVID-19/social distancing:

  • Check-in with others and connect through more than just email, text, and social media. Call or video chat with your friends and family to make sure they are okay and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.

  • Identify things you can do to reduce stress and anxiety. Consider what has helped you handle stress in the past, and make adjustments as needed to do those things (i.e. connecting with friends via Facetime instead of over coffee, exercise/yoga videos online instead of a group class, etc.)

  • Maintain structure in your day. Many people are now working remotely and/or are at home with their children. Creating structure/schedule in your day can help daily life to feel more “normal.”

  • Get outside if you can, even if it’s just in your yard, on a balcony, or just opening a window. Fresh air and sunshine can be very helpful in improving overall mood and decreasing feelings of depression and anxiety.

  • Take breaks from social media and news articles that are focused on COVID-19. While it’s important to stay informed, too much information can be overwhelming.

If you’re concerned about your mental health, take a free, anonymous mental health screening at www.mentalhealthmn.org. If you screen positive for a mental health condition, you’ll receive resources and information about next steps.

Know the resources that can help you, including the following:

Minnesota Warmline: A peer-to-peer line for mental health recovery and social isolation, open Monday-Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m. Toll-free at 877-404-3190 or text “support” to 85511.

Mental Health Helpline: Connections to mental health treatment and services across the state, open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Toll-free at 800-862-1799 or via online chat at www.mentalhealthmn.org.

Minnesota Crisis Text Line: Text “MN” to 741741

Minnesota County Crisis Response: Search by county or zip code at www.mentalhealthmn.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800.273.TALK (8255)

SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline: 800.985.5990 or text “talkwithus” to 66746.