Westfield, Zionsville panel offers mental health tips

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The coronavirus pandemic has raised concerns about depression and substance abuse.

A panel of Dianna Huddleston, Aspire Indiana Health; Kassie Frazier, Sylvia’s Child Advocacy Center; and Deidra Rausch, The Cabin Counseling Center, shared some advice on recognizing warning signs during questioning at a joint Westfield and Zionsville Chamber of Commerce luncheon Aug. 20 at Finley Creek Farms in Zionsville.

“If you feel things aren’t going well for you, if you are having a difficult time sleeping or eating, or overeating, or you are not interested in things you used to be interested in, it’s time for a mental health check-up,” said Huddleston, director of comprehensive services for Hamilton and Boone counties. “It’s just like you would go to the doctor if your leg hurt, you should come to see a mental health professional when you are not feeling right.”

Huddleston said people who have extreme issues with addictions, one could notice major changes in their behavior.  She said they might show an over-interest in one thing and a lack of interest in something else that they used to be interested in.

“They might have more anger or depression,” she said. “It’s important we always think about taking care of our brains and mental health just like we take care of our bodies.”

Frazier said to look for changes in teenagers’ attitudes.

“That’s hard because teenagers have attitudes, anyway,” Frazier said. “I’m especially concerned with the time they spend on computers, isolated from peers and from other adults. A lot of us are in situations where we have high schoolers who are staying home alone to do their eLearning. It’s extremely important to do the check-ins with them nightly and even throughout the day. I’m a big tester with my daughter to see if she needs anything.”

Frazier said she encourages an open line of communication with every family.

Rausch said she has been working with couples who are overly stressed with working from home and teaching from home without an education degree.

“There are three ingredients: unpredictable, uncontrollable and no end in sight. I think when that is how you are feeling mentally, not just with COVID, all those three ingredients can make you feel stress and anxiety is off the rails,” Rausch said. “I think that’s why some people are baking a lot. You know the ingredients. You know how it’s going to turn out for the most part, and you know how much time you have to bake it. We don’t do well as a species when things are unpredictable, uncontrollable and no end in sight.”

Huddleston said it’s important to evaluate mental health conditions for ourselves and loved ones.

“It’s important to reach out and do one more Zoom or Google call to friends and family, make a phone call,” she said. “And we do that for each other. We know our seniors are really struggling. They were a population of people that were already isolated, and this compounded that. We have to keep them isolated to keep them safe, so it’s really important we do those extra check-ins and phone calls and giving people assistance and connecting them to services. Aspire was able to pivot to VIP, Video in Person. We were able to do that because of the technology we already had, so we’ve been able to reach out and connect with seniors who would have never come into our office because they had so much anxiety and depression. They are now able to connect virtually and start services.”


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