OUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH IN A PANDEMIC – WENDY BLANCHARD, M.S., CHHC, CPS

Each of us, in our own individual way, is experiencing a response to our current global Pandemic.

And, we all have a right to our response. We must recognize, and validate our own feelings and emotions, as well as those around us. We are experiencing an impending mental health crisis. Lives, jobs, homes lost. Others paralyzed in fear that disables them from leaving their homes…even to go to the supermarket to purchase food. Shortages of food and supplies. Loved ones, friends and neighbors succumbing to COVID19…maybe even oneself becoming ill.

Our children are feeling ongoing uncertainty, fear, and many a loss of experiences such as prom, sports and even a graduation ceremony. They are experiencing distance learning, which for many, is extremely challenging for a variety of reasons, especially if one has learning challenges…all of which occurred in the form of a sucker punch…never saw it coming.

As a mental health educator, holistic health practitioner, and teacher, I am receiving many requests for wellness support and mental health support.

This is always a positive and proactive approach to recovery. As professionals, we don’t have all of the answers, but as for me, I share all that I have in wellness strategies, and practice my training in mental health first aid both for youth, and for adults, as well as suicide safety. I share my own lived experience, and training as a Recovery Specialist, and Certified Peer Specialist. And, when I cannot serve the potential clients, and/or family and friends, I refer out to a select few mental health/holistic professionals with whom I collaborate and for whom I have the utmost confidence, and hold in the highest regard.

A trauma response may look like debilitating anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, extreme sadness and excessive worry, and an inability to function in daily living activities… The inability to live, laugh, love, and learn. Simultaneously, these symptoms “co-occur” with symptoms of physical “dis-ease.”

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the above symptoms or anything that mimics these symptoms for two weeks or more, and it is impacting your daily living activities with severe impact so that you may not be eating, or eating too much, not sleeping, or sleeping too much, unable to find the joy in anything, excessive fear that causes physical symptoms such as headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, lethargy, not interacting with loved ones, or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, I urge you to reach out for support. You can reach out to your primary care physician, and have a visit through telemedicine, your local mental health providers, social workers, psychologist, and even peer specialists. There are also some wonderful APPS for anxiety such as CALM and HEADSPACE.

In New York State, there is a wonderful online resources and training center that provides an abundance of resources and support for educators, families, students, and community partners. Just log onto the following website, create a login, and click on your NYS County for resources and information.

For this information, visit http://www.mentalhealthednys.org. Also, feel free to email me for information on resources in the Hudson Valley N.Y. region at WendyBlanchard044@gmail.com. Please put the word RESOURCES in the subject line.

If you are feeling unwell, you are not alone. Please reach out immediately for support. Everyone who has a trauma response to our current situation will experience different symptoms and these symptoms may change as time goes on. And, trauma responses can be delayed, so be cognizant of signs and symptoms in yourself, and of those around you. Early intervention is key!

I will be offering a training in Mental Health & Wellness Literacy that is a basic “101” to understanding mental health. This will include risk and protective factors, learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder/crisis, and how to implement self care and wellness practices. This training will be offered in two parts virtually through the Rockland Teacher’s Center, Rockland County, NY, on July 14 and 15, 2020 from 9:30am -11am.

“Mental Health & Wellness Literacy” training focuses on reframing the mental health conversation with ongoing dialogue about mental health which can slowly transform the culture/climate of our schools so as to normalize mental health symptoms. Through a public health approach, we understand, explore, and execute best practices in mental health and wellness. We will understand that we all have mental health, and it rests on a continuum. We will recognize the signs and symptoms, risk and protective factors, and recognize a possible trauma response in an emerging mental health disorder. This is where we begin to eliminate stigma, and raise awareness. We will understand that we all have mental health, as well as the importance of self care through “whole person wellness,” as documented in the NYS Mental Health Education Law passed on July 1, 2018 through a “holistic view.”. (PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, SOCIAL, INTELLECTUAL, SPIRITUAL,OCCUPATIONAL).

To register for this training, please visit https://www.rockteach.org

With love, blessings and prayers,

Wendy