Experts urge people pay attention to mental health navigating through Christmas holiday during pandemic

Published: Dec. 23, 2020 at 5:24 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - We can see the physical impact of COVID-19, but the isolation, money stress and the fear of contracting it is taking an often invisible toll on mental health.

Local mental health therapists are seeing the numbers for people needing their services increase, and during the holiday season, those feelings can become worse as many people cope with many different losses.

“This year is a unique year for many people,” said Mental Health Therapist Christy Aquino with UnityPoint-Health St. Luke’s Hospital. “People are dealing with a loss of tradition, a loss of routine. It may be the loss of their home or loss of hope even.”

As the year comes to an end, there’s worry about what’s ahead. Aquino says this Christmas people may not be seeing family or friends or have worries about being around them. She says it’s important to first acknowledge those emotions.

“People should also understand that the grieving process is not a linear process. We go all over the place so one day we may be bargaining with why are things the way that they are?, We may be one day feeling something joyful, and maybe feeling a little bit guilty that we’re feeling joyful or happy today because you know we aren’t going to be with our loved one,” Aquino said.

As we navigate through that, it’s important to keep those human connections alive whether it’s Zoom or through social distancing activities.

Devon Steen, Abbe Health’s Director of Community Based Recovery Services says it’s the same for people dealing with loss of a loved one, and spending their first holiday without them.

“Even if that’s not being able to be in person, you can call somebody. You can do a video call with someone. If you know of somebody who may be a spending the holidays alone or who you would normally spend time with and you’re not able to, maybe it’s dropping off something for them,” said Steen.

Steen heads their COVID loss support group, which starts back up in January, but in the meantime, she says there are many resources for people to get the help they need now.

Some of those resources include the COVID Recovery Iowa initiative or the Iowa Warm Line for help: 1-844-775-WARM (9276).

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