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Update from Molly O’Dell, Director of Communicable Disease, Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts & Debbie Bonniwell, Chief Executive Officer of Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare for July 15 Edition

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many areas of our lives. One unintended consequence of the public health guidance to stay at home and physical distance has been the effect on mental health. We have been working hard to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have to be prepared to “flatten the curve” of a second wave – a mental health epidemic. 

With a pandemic like COVID-19, it is important to remind yourself that many people are struggling emotionally right now. Lives have been turned upside down and flipped around. It has disrupted our daily routines, and has since forced us to quickly figure out how to live a new normal. Not only are adults experiencing change, but so are our children. School, activities, friends, and sports have come to a halt and everyone is suddenly at home. It continues to be a tough transition and we should give ourselves space and time to adjust. It is important to continue to support and love one another in this difficult time. 

The effect of COVID-19 on people and the community has been varied. Some of the negative effects include isolation, loneliness, stress, anxiety, and the loss of supportive and enriching activities such as school, sports, the gym, recreation, etc. Some positive effects include the expanded ability to offer telehealth, a focus on mental health and support, and reduced stress from overscheduled activities. It is important to remember that it is okay to reflect on the impact COVID-19 has had on you and your family – notice and accept how you feel so that you can take action.

Reach out for support from friends and family. You may need to take breaks from the news and engage in safe and healthy self-care activities. You should seek professional support when symptoms last several weeks and are affecting interpersonal relationships, health, family, work, or there are significant changes in mood or behaviors. Things to look out for may include changes in appetite, energy levels, sleep patterns, weight, increased irritability, crying spells, low frustration tolerance, sadness, and/or feelings of being on edge or fearful. 

The Community Services Board, Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, is available to support the community’s mental health and substance use needs. Same day services are available by both telehealth and in-person, depending on personal choice. For initial telehealth visits call 540-343-3007 or for crisis services call 540-981-9351. In-person walk-in assessments are available without an appointment Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

BRBH Prevention and Wellness services such as youth development, mental health wellness, trauma, resiliency, suicide prevention, trainings, and parental education are also offered. Family Services of Roanoke Valley also offers affordable counseling services and currently has resources to support four free telehealth sessions for anyone struggling with COVID-19. You can call 540-563-5316 to get connected.

You can also reach out to your family doctor for advice and next steps. If you are in crisis mode or having thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

We hope that you, your family, and your friends are staying safe and well. It is a difficult time, and we encourage everyone to watch out for their own safety by following the public health guidance, but also to check in with family, friends, and neighbors to offer a helping hand or a listening ear. We are in this together. 

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