Experts discuss mental health during the holidays amid the pandemic

NOW: Experts discuss mental health during the holidays amid the pandemic


MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With the pandemic, 2020 has been difficult for people dealing with mental health and grief. 

With Christmas Eve here, the holidays can be tough for those already struggling. 

Mental health experts say the holiday season can normally be difficult for those struggling with mental health issues. 

"The stresses of the holiday, coupled with - at least in Wisconsin - the time of year," said Dr. Sarah Reed, a community psychologist at Rogers Behavioral Health. 

Then add in a pandemic.

"The increased of isolation, the changing of plans and the uncertainty of what to expect next really, it is a perfect storm of anxiety, depression, suicidality and a whole host of mental health challenges," said Reed. 

She says there's also an element of grief. 

"Whether it's for a person or traditions or a change in our habits and routines," she said. 

"I think with my patients with COVID who have been in the hospital, this is a difficult time partly due to the isolation that they face, and not being able to engage in the normal traditions or be around loved ones," said Dr. Andrew Schramm, a clinical psychologist with Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

There are also thousands across our state, experiencing the holidays without a loved one who has passed away due to COVID. 

"If someone has lost a loved one this year, obviously that is a really fresh loss and there are understandably going to be a lot of feelings associated with that, so I'd encourage people to honor that and take the time to look at pictures and tell stories about the loved one, because going through that grief is really important to acknowledge those emotions," said Schramm. 

He says his advice for everyone this holiday season is to take a deep breath, try to be present, and enjoy the moment, even if it looks different. 

"I'd really encourage people if they're struggling to reach out for help and to know that they're not alone in this. I would also encourage your viewers to reach out to anyone they're concerned about and just ask directly how they're doing and what support they need," said Schramm. "Mental health and our emotional well being is critical year round. I really think that this time of year, and especially in 2020, that those aspects of our wellbeing are more important than ever to pay attention to, so I'd really want your viewers to know that the disruption in our lives is temporary, that the changes we're making in our routine are with good cause, to stop the spread of the virus and to keep ourselves and our families safe, and to look forward to the next year in 2021."

Dr. Maria Amarante, the clinical director for the Multicultural Trauma and Addiction Center of Wisconsin, says she hopes people can also look for a silver lining during the pandemic. 

"I also think it's really important for individuals to understand or try to understand the lens by which they're looking and understanding COVID-19 and I want to encourage individuals to look at the silver lining of their situation, coming up with a gratitude list, identifying all the positive things going on in your life and taking the time to thank individuals who have supported you along the way."

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