Pottstown Mercury: Montco official: 'It's perfectly normal to feel unsettled during this time'
Carl Hessler, Jr.
March 19, 2020
EAGLEVILLE — During these uncertain, anxiety-filled days, Montgomery County officials said it’s important that citizens take care of their mental health as well as their physical health.
“The first thing I want to emphasize is that right now it’s okay to not be okay. This is a very unusual and unprecedented situation that we find ourselves in and it’s changing every single day and it’s perfectly normal to feel unsettled during this time,” county Commissioners Chairwoman Dr. Valerie Arkoosh said during her daily coronavirus news briefing.
“Treat yourself like you would a good friend. Make some plans and carve out some time to take care of yourself,” Arkoosh said. “Second, do your best to stay connected. Use Facetime, text or call loved ones and friends. Talk to them about how you are feeling. I can guarantee you, if you admit that you’re feeling a little unsettled to whoever you are talking to is going to say, ‘Yeah, me too.’ That will really go a long way in making everyone feel better.”
“Reach out to that elderly neighbor. Maybe you can help them get some groceries. If you have a neighbor that you know who has a young child at home but they still have to work from home or work at their jobsite, see if you can help them out, assuming that your household doesn’t have any symptoms and that there’s no problem there,” Arkoosh added.
For those who are feeling overwhelmed or who have a mental health emergency, Arkoosh reminded county residents about the Montgomery County Mobile Crisis Unit.
“They are available 24/7 for any type of mental health, behavioral health emergency. They are wonderful and they will respond anywhere in Montgomery County. That number is 855-634-4673,” said Arkoosh, who as a physician has been at the center of the county’s efforts to combat coronavirus and provide citizens with the latest information regarding the outbreak.
According to the county’s website, the service is available to all Montgomery County residents, including children, teens, adults and families.
After a crisis, the Mobile Crisis Unit can help citizens develop ways to help reduce future crisis situations and create a crisis plan as part of your or your child's, or your family's recovery and wellness goals, officials said.
According to the county’s website, Montgomery County Mobile Crisis Support is provided by Access Services, and includes the following services: 24 hour telephone counseling; services provided in the individual’s home; assistance with developing strategies for reducing recurring crisis; support for drug/alcohol use or addiction; help coping with past traumatic experiences; emergency respite; peer support, and assistance connecting to local community resources.
Additional information about crisis services can be found on the county’s website at www.montcopa.org by searching Health and Human Services Department services.
State officials, Arkoosh added, have provided new guidance for behavioral health providers to support alternate ways for individuals to seek mental health services through TeleHealth.
“So please contact your provider to see if TeleHealth services are available to you right now,” said Arkoosh, a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine who also has a master’s degree in public health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Arkoosh also had some advice for parents whose children are now at home in light of statewide school closings during the public health emergency. It’s important, Arkoosh said, to be truthful with children, to ask them if they have any questions and “to respond to them with age appropriate honesty.”
“Make sure you reassure them that the grownups are doing everything they can -- doctors, nurses and scientists -- that it’s not on them to solve this problem, that the grownups are doing that work and they’re working hard and they’re working as quickly as they can,” Arkoosh said.
“Remind them that this will be okay and that this is not our new normal, that they will be able to go back to school, they will be able to see their friends whenever they want. That day will come, but for now we have to be a little bit more careful,” Arkoosh added.
Establishing a routine is also important.
“Obviously, being in school is a great routine for kids. Being out of school, not so much. So, it can really throw the schedule off, which can create anxiety in and of itself,” Arkoosh said.
“So, create a new routine. Include outside time with fresh air, work in cleaning and sanitizing around the house twice a day into that routine so that will help the kids feel empowered that they’re helping to solve this,” Arkoosh said.
Additional information about the coronavirus outbreak and available services can be found at www.montcopa.org/COVID-19