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Coping with coronavirus? Counseling is available

Resources and tips are available for those who may be struggling with coping with COVID-19 and its effects on their lives.
The Louisiana Office of Behavioral Health offers a toll-free hotline (1-866-310-7977) that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for those who need to talk about their COVID-19 concerns.
Travis Darnell, a licensed psychological counselor, stressed that “people are not alone” in their feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that there are a number of ways to cope with issues, but the one he suggested is cognitive behavior therapy, which involves an A-B-C approach to handling situations. In it, there is an activating event, there are behaviors and then there are consequences.
“It can be used in a clinical setting, but it works phenomenal as a self-help option,” he said.
By writing out what their problems or concerns are, people can determine whether their feelings are rational or irrational, Darnell said.
“It’s extremely beneficial,” he said.
He said a simple internet search will bring up plenty of information on how the process works and resources.
When talking with children, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network offer tips, which were supplied via an LSU news release.
Advice includes not overreacting or making your child speak about their feelings, which could complicate their handling of the situation and bouncing back from it.
Parents should provide assistance and support or comfort for their children, including limiting their availability to “potentially disturbing media coverage” and not telling them everything about the situation.
Adults also should keep the same routine each day for their children.
“The predictability and structure provided by routines help your child get into a rhythm and feel that things are under control,” according to the LSU news release.
Parents also should anticipate being “more readily available for their children,” too, the release said. They should be honest with their children but should give information to them as it relates to their questions, using only credible sources. Positive reinforcement about how the situation is being handled is key, too.
Adults also should help their children find ways to handle their feelings to this situation positively, such as through talking about the situation.
Parents also must maintain their own health and control their stress levels.
“How adults react to the crisis can have a significant impact on children, especially young children,” the release said.
Parents should look for signs from their children, like those that would occur in an adult who is depressed, such as mood swings and “being avoidant,” Darnell said.
While Darnell said youngsters were OK at first, now that time has passed with them not being able to see their friends or athletes unable to compete, things can get tough.
“Some kids are actually experiencing real-life depression because they’re missing out on some of the most important times of their lives by not having those opportunities, especially our older kids,” Darnell said. “Our (grades) 9-12 kids are struggling with that right now.”
In addition to mental health, Darnell said now is a great time to educate children about how vital personal hygiene is.
As for long-term effects of this pandemic, Darnell said that while it is still in the early stages in terms of mental health, if things continue like they are and people continue to suffer losses, he predicted that the mental health field would see a reaction similar to what happened post-Hurricane Katrina with post-traumatic stress disorder.

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