Coronavirus panic raises concern for mental health

Thursday, March 26, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 many citizens in Big Horn County are feeling anxiety over health concerns.

High stress levels may also become a trigger to someone with suicidal thoughts. The national suicide prevention hotline is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. People with suicidal thoughts are encouraged to call a trusted friend, relative or the suicide prevention hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255.

Big Horn County Public Health Nurse, Esther Wynne, suggests several different methods to reduce the anxiety one might feel when it comes to health concerns surrounding Novel Coronavirus.


Reduce Social Media exposure.

Wynne said that some people with severe anxiety need to realize that when they are on social media and watching television, if they are starting to get anxious to take a step back.

Misinformation, hysteria, and other contributing triggers to the public seem to be the most prominent on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, she added.

“Locally, we are finding there are people who need to unplug and stop reading Facebook,” Wynne said.

Most of the information regarding coronavirus circulating on social media is either from an unreliable source, taken way out of context, or is simply untrue.

“Maybe choose one source that you want to get some news from for the day, and then unplug from social media chatter, television and radio, because it will create anxiety.”

Acquiring information from a reliable and credible news source is one way to ease an anxious mind and might also significantly reduce falsified or unreliable news, which may be causing more damage.


Exercise and physical activity can work wonders.

Although the public is encouraged to maintain an appropriate distance of six feet from others, it does not mean you are confined indoors.

Many public gyms are closed until further notice, but there are also several free fitness and exercise classes being offered online and on different wellness smartphone apps Wynne said.

“Physical exercise is a great way to reduce stress,” Wynne said, “There are certainly exercises that you can do from home, such as yoga and other home fitness efforts.”

Physical activity is a great way to reduce stress and boost immune system strength, Wynne said.

“There is also just getting out and walking around in nature. We don't have to socially distance ourselves from trees,” Wynne said with a chuckle.

Walking is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety while also allowing the air out in nature to strengthen your immune system.


Talk to someone about your concerns.

One of the primary reasons social media is so detrimental in such a time as this is that it takes away from holding an active and meaningful conversation with friends and family.

Wynne suggests that although social distancing is important, there are other ways to have a good, healthy discussion about your concerns with a trusted friend or family member.

Video conference platforms such as Skype, FaceTime and Zoom are just a few of the different methods a person can use to hold face-to-face conversations with someone, while respecting the six-foot social distance.


Stay informed by credible news sources, not social media.

The hysteria and public anxiety surrounding the outbreak can increase with each confirmed case reported. National and local reports on social media and by word of mouth that allege infection hotspots or individuals who are purposely spreading the virus can also incite panic.

“It is most certainly a rumor mill,” Wynne said, citing how word of mouth often gets embellished until it becomes the farthest thing from the truth.

This does not help alleviate any worry for the already panicked public, she said, many of whom are resorting to irrational actions in order to safeguard themselves and family. This can all lead to more problems caused by irrational behavior.

Wynne, who updates the Big Horn Valley Health Center’s Facebook page about the current news regarding coronavirus in Big Horn County, recommends acquiring information from sources that can verify.


Maintain your spiritual faith as a calming method.

For much of Big Horn County, which has a wide variety of different spiritual faiths, many churches and gatherings have been suspended until further notice to prevent transmission of the virus.

Spiritual services offer a sense of calm to many people, but there are several ways to maintain that sense from the safety of home.

“The churches have closed down, but they are also offering virtual church services via live streaming or Skyping,” Wynne said.

Wynne also suggests many people who practice Crow spiritual ceremonies, such as the Alawussua or Sweat Lodge ceremony, use good judgement and offer the ceremony to household members only, keeping recommended Center for Disease Control’s directives in mind.

It is essential to maintain a safe and healthy distance to prevent transmission of the virus.

While Wynne says people should certainly pursue the traditions and activities that they have engaged in prior to the outbreak, she encouraged them to make sure they are being done in a safe and preventative manner.

Throughout these uncertain times, Wynne heard one Louisiana State Official utter the words that she plans on making her new credo, “Pray. Prepare. Persevere.”