2021 Ambition is a special section published in Enid News & Eagle on eight Sundays in February, March and April 2021.
ENID, okla. – With many finding ways to navigate uncertainties and routine changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health services at Enid stand firm in their mission to guide and help patients.
It’s important that people care about their mental health as much as they do their physical health, said Catina Sundvall, a consultant at the Frame of Mind Counseling Center.
“When we seek psychiatric treatment, it’s like going to the doctor because something is hurting,” said Sundvall. “It’s important to recognize when what you’re doing isn’t working, and you need extra help to get through.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, agencies temporarily shut down and set up telemedicine services while slowly reopening their offices.
As people found a “new normal,” Rebecca Kroeker, President and CEO of ATS Consulting Agency, said appointment cancellations increased.
Justin Simmons, executive director and advisor at Making a Difference, agreed, saying business had slowed for a few months, but now the agency is getting more and more recommendations on what to expect.
“People can crouch in their houses and belongings, but whenever they start (after the COVID-19 shutdown) … (that) recommendations have really increased this year,” Simmons said.
One example is back to school, he said.
“Homeschooling is a big pressure on the parents, it’s a big pressure on the kids, it’s a big pressure on the teachers,” he said, adding that it can be anything to go back to class, away from parents being mentally taxing and dealing with social anxieties.
Sundvall said the increasing worries and fears over the past year had affected not only patients but counselors as well as they addressed their own concerns and tried to find different ways to communicate and help clients.
Telemedicine is a road that was used in the early months of the pandemic and is still used, although some clients are seen in person at some agencies.
Telehealth won’t go away as COVID-19 declines. ATS began using a HIPAA compliant software called doxy.me, which offers virtual check-ins, waiting rooms, and appointments. Kroeker said that since it does not require an account to use the software, it removes obstacles for people.
“I think the new normal for therapy will be that more and more people are using the technology and not having to drive to their appointments,” said Kroeker. “It also gives them more confidentiality. If there is any benefit to COVID-19, it would make services more accessible to people and push people to use the technology. “
A system of support
According to Sundvall, the pandemic has cut “vital human connections” and loneliness and isolation have affected – and still do – many people when they work from home or attend distance learning, according to Kroeker.
One topic that is often discussed with patients is a support system, Kroeker said, and when those systems are removed it creates a “big shift in life balance.”
“I’m going to do an activity with clients where they’ll draw a pie chart and the different parts of the cake would represent different aspects that are important to them in their life, be it family, friends, hobbies, church,” Kroeker said . “Now, for so many of us, that graph has shifted where it’s not supposed to be where we want it – our lives don’t feel balanced.”
Simmons said that some families might have been stuck at home as they slowed down their routines and had to spend more time together, but for others the pandemic has put more pressure on and taken away helpful out-of-home outlets such as advice Meetings, school, work and activities like soccer practice.
One problem for parents, Simmons said, was managing their children’s schoolwork – in some cases with poor video connections, Wi-Fi issues, help with homework and making sure homework was handed in. This added stress takes a toll on people, and Simmons, in nearly 25 years of experience, said that the most challenging year for people was to manage their own mental health and self-care and then “have something to spare for others People can give ”.
Simmons has noted an increase in fear of COVID-19 – people who wash their hands or don’t touch anything in stores because they are “afraid of getting COVID-19” and are afraid of passing the virus on to their loved ones.
“This has become a whole new level that no one has seen before,” he said. “I’ve never treated anyone who was scared because they were scared of catching the flu or anything.”
“First put on your own oxygen mask”
Simmons said that sometimes the best mental health boost is taking some time. For parents who are having trouble “getting away from the children”, he suggests planning something alone or with a partner.
“I think one of the trends I see this year is people are just emptying themselves and not refilling their own bucket. So they have to find ways to refill that bucket,” he said.
The past year has brought a lot of uncertainty, and Kroeker echoed Simmons, saying it is important to seek services and people to take care of themselves during this “unusual time”.
“When you’re on an airplane, before you can help your children, before you can help others, put on your own oxygen mask,” she said. “Same thing in self-care – taking care of ourselves.”
Kroeker said maintaining a new normal, like starting a new hobby or a defined area of work in private households, could be helpful, as could using techniques and coping skills like deep breathing and trying to turn negative thoughts into something positive.
“Our thoughts are not always the truth,” she said. “If our mind is saying,“ My life is just horrible, ”then you can rephrase that to“ I’ll get through this. ”I’ve had difficult times in the past and we are making progress to get out of this pandemic. We have these negative ones Thoughts reformulated and not allowed to last our whole day or our whole week, or however long that may be. “
Humans are “creatures of habit,” said Simmons. Therefore, it’s healthy to develop a routine that can include things like a set meal time and time for schoolwork, as well as things like self development, exercise, and relationship building activities.
With mental health affected by school, work, COVID-19, relationships, or anything else, Sundvall reminds people that this is a time like no other, that it is important to remember what can be controlled and what cannot and “can afford some grace. “
“We’ll be fine – we just have to take our time and be kind to ourselves.”
Searching for help
These agencies provide a variety of services to children, teens, and adults – including outpatient counseling, marriage counseling, family psychotherapy, group work, and more – and focus on areas such as relationship problems, trauma / post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, grief, and more.
Simmons advised people not to be afraid to ask for help and not to be an issue with stigma when seeking mental health services – let someone “guide you through this part of your life”.
The services, he said, are well worth the time and money because they help improve comfort, functioning, social interaction, and spiritual well-being.
New patients on Making a Difference, Frame of Mind, and ATS can usually be seen by a counselor within a week or two. However, this may vary depending on availability. Simmons said if someone needs to be seen sooner, the agencies will refer clients to other available agencies so they can begin treatment.
“Most people don’t want to wait a month or two to deal with panic attacks or depression,” Simmons said. “When they finally break down and call us, they often need help, so we try not to put people on a waiting list. As long as someone is available in town we are more than willing to share and bring the person to immediate care wherever they need it. “
Making a Difference has five consultants available at (580) 233-5900 or email@example.com. ATS has 13 consultants including Kroeker and their Enid phone number is (580) 242-4673. Frame of Mind has a total of four advisors, Sundvall said, and can be reached at (580) 231-6153.
Anyone caught in an emergency should call 911. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24 hours a day at (800) 273-8255. Oklahoma has a number of crisis hotlines, resources, and websites available for anyone who needs help, including HeartLine 2-1-1 and the Northwest Center for Behavioral Health hotline (800) 545-0518.