Michigan Association of Health Plans

Getting Through a Pandemic When You Have a Mental Health Condition

Living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD and other mental health conditions can pose a challenge even in “normal” times.

Then COVID-19 came along. For nearly a month, it’s added new twists to life with a mental illness. The inability to see a trusted therapist in person. Added stress about jobs, whether losing one, having to work in public despite the risk of getting sick, or having to adapt to working from home. Worries about getting medication refills on time, or being able to pay for them. Uncertainty about the future.

Challenges that are traumatic enough for Americans without mental health conditions can be doubly so for those who have such conditions – whether they’re diagnosed or not, says Michelle Riba, M.D., a professor and psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine.

She and her colleagues have put together a free online toolkit to help people with a broad range of mental health conditions understand how the COVID-19 situation may affect them, and offering guidance on how to adapt and cope.

Even if someone hasn’t received a formal diagnosis of anxiety or depression, the stress and social distancing requirements of the coronavirus pandemic may make their mild symptoms worse, or tip the balance into more full blown episodes, Riba notes.

“This pandemic has set up a perfect storm of people having stress and anxiety, and not having the usual ways to talk and connect with people about it,” she says. “We can’t go for coffee or chat at the office water cooler about what we’re feeling, and that can make people feel worse than they were already.”

The U-M Depression Center, of which Riba is associate director, offers a free online Depression Toolkit that can help anyone recognize, manage and support others with signs of depression.

This article appeared in the University of Michigan Health Blog. Read more here.

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