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Not alone with illness in Nebraska

Not alone with illness in Nebraska

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We Nebraskans have learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve learned how to spot the symptoms of coronavirus infection and how to protect others from being infected if we’re COVID-positive: Isolate and wear a mask. This knowledge has been thrust upon us by circumstances beyond our control, and as time passes, we’re learning more.

This week the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reminded us of another couple of problems that have spread during the pandemic: mental health issues and substance abuse.

Depression, anxiety and other problems have been amplified for a number of reasons, especially for people in nursing homes. By necessity, these places have been on lock-down for months so that elderly residents at high risk are protected against the coronavirus. Locking down nursing homes has protected the physical health of residents in the short term, but it’s taken a substantial toll on mental and emotional health.

Human beings are social by nature. We need human contact, so it’s easy to understand the horrible loneliness infecting anyone who has been isolated for too long.

That group could include a friend or family member with mental issues or with substance problems. Isolation erodes mental and physical well-being and invites self-destructive behaviors, such as seeking relief from boredom and loneliness through alcohol and drugs.

DHHS said a first step in addressing the COVID-associated problems is to understand these are maladies that affect many Nebraskans and that there’s nothing wrong about seeking help. Talking about the problem with a friend or family member may be one way a person with mental illness can get relief, but just as people seek medical professionals when they have a physical illness, there comes a time when professional help is necessary to address mental and emotional issues. And that’s also the case with alcohol and substance abuse. Don’t allow stigmas to prevent seeking professional assistance.

Remember, mental health and substance disorders affect many people, and that’s especially true now.

Because of the isolation, people in need of services may have a tough time reaching for help. Families and support networks then can make a big difference as they encourage and assist individuals to connect with the professionals who can help them.

DHHS provided contact information for Nebraskans seeking assistance:

n Nebraska Family Helpline, 888-866-8660, can help callers 24/7.

n Rural Response Hotline, 800-464-0258, information on legal assistance, financial clinics, mediation and emergency assistance.

If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed with emotions, anxiety or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Helpline.

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