Avera official says don’t ignore mental health during COVID-19

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Press Release) – Stress, loss, anxiety and sadness – everyone has dealt with these emotions over the past several weeks. When these symptoms keep you from being able to function in daily life, or you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s time to get help.

“Mental health is just as important as physical health. Many people deal with ongoing conditions that need attention – even during a pandemic. Now is not the time to ignore your mental health,” said Matthew Stanley, DO, Avera Medical Group psychiatrist and Clinical Vice President of the Avera Behavioral Health Service Line.

“We’ve seen fewer people reaching out for help during the pandemic and this is of concern. We know that the incidence of behavioral health conditions like depression, anxiety and addiction hasn’t gone away. We want to send the message that there’s a trusted team who’s ready and able to help,” Stanley said.

Ignoring behavioral health symptoms can result in worsening of a condition, or, sadly, the loss of life through suicide.

There may be those who try to self-medicate through the use of substances such as alcohol, prescription pain medications or other drugs. “This is a red flag, too, that can lead to the disease of addiction. If not addressed, addiction can destroy relationships, careers and lives,” Stanley said.

Warning signs of behavioral health conditions:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Thoughts of suicide, harming yourself or others
  • Pressing feelings of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness
  • Excessive worrying, panic, agitation and irritability
  • Trouble remembering or concentrating
  • Excessive mood swings
  • Hallucinations, paranoia or delusion
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Not having the energy or interest to engage in the activities of daily life
  • Continually turning to alcohol or other drugs to escape reality or sleep
  • Extreme difficulty interacting with friends and/or family

Avera has numerous levels of help and support, from outpatient counseling and appointments with a psychiatrist or psychologist, to intensive day programs, inpatient hospitalization, and addiction care. Virtual visits with a counselor or psychiatrist are also available.

Avera offers specialized care for all ages – seniors, adults, adolescents and children.

“Accessing care for mental health conditions is safe. We are taking extra measures to ensure a healthy environment, including screens of employees and patients for virus symptoms. Fear of the virus should not keep you from caring for your mental health, because mental health conditions can and do threaten life and quality of life,” Stanley said.

If you or a loved one needs help, talk to your primary care provider for a referral, or reach out directly to Avera’s 24-hour behavioral health assessment line at 1-800-691-4336. Learn more at Avera.org/behavioralhealth to find mental health resources nearest you and determine the best level of care.