Metzger hosts community conversation on mental health

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NEW PALTZ — State Senator Jen Metzger (D, Rosendale) continued her series of webinars addressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic by tackling rising mental health concerns.

Speaking on Facebook Live, Metzger was joined by Dr. Amy Nitza and Dr. Karla Vermeulen, director and deputy director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health at SUNY New Paltz.

Dr. Nitza emphasized techniques that people can use when coping with added stress from staying isolated or dealing with loved ones.

“There are people who can really benefit from using mindfulness or meditation for two minutes a day, or even watching a video to distract yourself,” she said.

The key, according to Dr. Nitza, is to develop a strategy of coping mechanisms. One of those who be to avoid excess media coverage of the pandemic. 

“There’s too much of it everywhere,” she said. “Limit it to one trusted source to look at once a day, maybe twice a day.” 

Using social media and video technology to stay connected is also important, according to the experts. Dr. Vermeulen shared an experience she had on Sunday with the popular video conferencing app Zoom, which she used to connect with her family on Mother’s Day.

“It was awesome,” she said. “I think we’ll make it a regular thing in the future.” 

Both of the experts offered solutions for people seeking a higher level of care for mental health issues. 

They advised that it’s never too late to start therapy. 

“There’s really no bad time to go get help,” said Dr. Nitza. “You don’t need to wait until something feels completely overwhelming or completely out of control before you go get help.”

Dr. Nitza recommended telehealth therapy for those looking to speak with someone outside of a loved one to cope with issues that might be bothering them. She also recommended the Disaster Distress Helpline, a 24/7 nationwide hotline for those in general distress, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for those with suicidal thoughts.  

She also emphasized that the pandemic is an abnormal experience for everyone, and that’s ok.

“It’s not that there’s something wrong with us, it’s that there’s something wrong with that situation,” she said.

If you are someone you know is struggling with distressful thoughts, call the National Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255).