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WNY COVID Working Group: The Pandemic and Mental Health

Updated: 7/27/2021

The WNY COVID Working Group - a group of more than 20 healthcare and health-related organizations - released information on July 26 about the pandemic and mental health.

Many of us felt mentally unprepared for the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no right or wrong way to experience these intense stresses.

Some common responses include:

  • Grief
  • Survivor’s Guilt: “Why am I ok and my family member is not?”
  • Fear
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Nervousness
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Sadness
  • Intense worry
  • Feeling alone
  • Anger
  • Disbelief: “How could this have happened?”
  • Loss of control

Some people may also experience:

  • Relief
  • Gratitude
  • A sense of community and belonging
  • Renewed joy in life
  • Deepening of faith

There is no right way to experience a disaster, and it can be overwhelming. Simple practices can help:

  • Acknowledge the difficulties you have faced. Say them to yourself or write about them
  • Write a list of your thoughts and feelings. Writing them down can make them feel more manageable
  • Remind yourself that emotions, while powerful, are separate from you. They come and go like waves on the sand or clouds passing
  • Take slow, deep breaths when your emotions overtake you to help calm you physically and mentally
  • Movement of any kind can elevate your mood: walking, riding a bike, gardening, dancing, hiking, swimming, or practicing yoga
  • Take a walk in a park, by a lake or in the woods to reconnect with nature and the seasons
  • Establish new routines to restore a sense of control. Dramatic changes in our daily rituals can be unsettling
  • As humans, we need social contact. Even if you don’t feel you need anyone, connecting with others will make you happier and more resilient. Have a phone conversation, write an old-fashioned letter, do a virtual visit, or take a walk with a friend
  • Limit screen time
  • Moderate caffeine intake. Caffeine can intensify feelings of nervousness

What works for one person may not work for another. Try these one at a time to find out what helps you. Think of this as building a Self-Care Toolbox.

There is no simple solution to recovering from such a significant and disruptive event as the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people may find it helpful to get the support of a mental health professional. If so, please contact one of the following:

  • Your health care provider who can help connect you to a behavioral health specialist
  • Contact a mental health expert directly. Value Network IPA has an extensive list of resources and a partner directory that can be found at https://valuenetworkwny.org. The Psychological Association of Western New York has a list at their website https://pawny.org. The VA Western New York Healthcare System has resources for veterans. Call 716-834-9200

Call one of the numbers below immediately if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or taking your own life
  • Thoughts of harming another person or people
  • Thoughts of using alcohol or other substances to manage emotions

Erie County
Adults 18 and over: 716-834-3131
Youth under 18: 716-882-4357 (882- HELP)
Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1)
Addiction Hotline 716-831-7007

Allegany County
585-268-9600

Cattaraugus County
1-800-339-5209

Chautauqua County
1-800-724-0461

Genesee County
Mental Health Care & Crisis Helpline: 585-283-5200

Niagara County
716-285-3515

Orleans County
585-589-7066

Wyoming County
585-283-5200 option 2

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255

Resources for Additional Social and Emotional Support:
Guide to Self-Care: https://mindpeacecincinnati.com/wp-content/uploads/SelfCareReportR13.pdf 
Self-Care Assessment Tool: https://socialwork.buffalo.edu/content/dam/socialwork/home/self-care-kit/self-care-assessment.pdf
Mindfulness and Meditation App: https://app.wakingup.com/free-account
Presentations and Resources for Self-Compassion: https://self-compassion.org/videos/
Collective of Low-cost, high quality therapy providers (in-person and virtual): https://openpathcollective.org
Hiking trails: https://alltrails.com

Note: Consider consulting a medical professional to see if there is a biological cause of your symptoms. It’s been a tough year. Be kind to yourself and remember that you’re not alone. There is help available.

Signed:
Gale Burstein, MD, MPH, Erie County Department of Health
Rajinder Bajwa, MD, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center
Lynda Battaglia, LCSW, Genesee County Department of Mental Health 
Richard A. Carlson, Jr., MD, Primary Care IPA
Richard Charles, MD, General Physician, PC
Joe Chow, MD, Immediate Care
Tyler Connine, MD, UB Emergency Medicine Residency
Anne Constantino, MS, Horizon Corporations
John Craik, JD, Population Health Collaborative
Charlotte Crawford, RN, MSN, MBA, Lake Plains Community Health Network 
Tanvir Dara, MD, WellNow Urgent Care
Kathleen Dyson, MD, Community Pediatric Associates of WNY
Aimana ElBahtity, Esq., Medical Society of Erie County
John Fudyma, MD, MPH, Latus Medical Care
Ken Garbarino, MD, Family Choice of New York
Kevin Gibbons, MD, UBMD
Kathleen Grisanti, MD, Pediatric and Adolescent Urgent Care of WNY
Ed Heidelberger, MD, PhD, Bertrand Chaffee Hospital
Donna Kahm, SPHR, Southern Tier Health Care System 
Allana Krolikowski, MD, Jericho Road
Jeffrey Lackner, PsyD, UB Division of Behavioral Medicine
Charlene Ludlow, RN, MHA, Erie County Medical Center
James C. Matteliano, DDS, Eighth District Dental Society
Jason Matuszak, MD, Excelsior Orthopaedics
Jennifer McVige, MD, Dent Neurologic Institute
Mike Merrill, MD, MS, MBA, Independent Health
Katherine Mullin, MD, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
Jamie Nadler, MD, Kaleida Health
Margaret Paroski, MD, MMM, Catholic Medical Partners
Sucharita Paul, MD, MPH, UBMD Emergency Medicine
Mark F. Perry, MD, Highmark BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York
John Sellick, DO, MS, VA Western New York Healthcare System
Samuel Shatkin, MD, Aesthetic Associates Center
Kevin Shiley, MD, Catholic Health
Stephen Turkovich, MD, Oishei Children’s Hospital
Raul Vazquez, MD, Urban Family Practice
Richard Vienne, DO, Univera Healthcare 
Andrea J. Wanat, MA, Value Network IPA
Joyce Zmuda, MD, Optimum Physician Alliance

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The ILI/COVID Working Group of Western New York was formed in response to local variation in approach to the diagnosis and treatment of Influenza-Like-Illness and COVID-19 in the region. It is a collaborative effort of hospital systems, academic departments, independent practice associations, and insurers. The logos and signatures on this document represent the organizations’ support of this statement.

For previous statements and information from the WNY COVID-19 Work Group, visit https://wnydocs.org/WNY-COVID-19-Work-Group-Resources/