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Gov. Newsom directs Californians to mental health assistance for coronavirus anxiety

Stressed out? You're not alone. Here's where to find help.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — If you are feeling stressed right now, you are definitely not alone.

The coronavirus pandemic has created an aura of uncertainty in our world, as global economies grid to a halt, schools and businesses close, and families are told to stay at home.

The impact on individuals' mental health has been substantial. And while mental health services are becoming more and more vital, they are also becoming strained.

In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday morning that there are now guidelines, and even a "playbook," for dealing with mental health issues during this crisis at California's COVID-19 response website.

"Staying at home doesn't mean you're alone," Newsom said. "As a state, we are here to do what we can to support you and to be there at a time of need."

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In addition to providing state guidance to private and public health plans across the state, California is also introducing a playbook, or checklist, for adults, caregivers, and children.

The governor called the playbook and guidelines "psychological first-aid," aimed at not just meeting physical needs such as healthy eating and exercise, but also mental health needs.

A list of over a dozen hotlines has been made available. Texting hotlines are also listed for added accessibility.

California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, who vetted these resources, reminded viewers that staying at home and social distancing are still the top priorities, but that everyone should be checking in on their mental health.

"The actions we're all taking to spread the slow of coronavirus… are critically necessary and remain the top priority," Dr. Burke Harris said. "But while we keep our physical distance, our social supports to maintain emotional and spiritual connection are more important than ever for physical and mental health."

Dr. Burke Harris, reported that stress can affect a number of underlying health issues, such as blood pressure and diabetes. She identified a number of ways that stress and anxiety could show physically.

"It is important to recognize that stress related to the pandemic that many are feeling right now…can trigger the biological stress response, which also has an impact on our health and well-being," Dr. Burke Harris said.

Even in children, stress can cause notable changes in behavior, such as changes in sleep and appetite, increased anger and irritability, increased substance abuse, and family violence. Families with a history of trauma or adversity are also at a particular risk.

The Surgeon General's Playbook includes evidence-backed resources on decreasing your stress. For day-to-day help, there are practical tools and tips for parents and children.

"Safe, stable and neutering relationships help to protect our brains and bodies from the harmful effects of stress and adversity," Dr. Burke Harris said.

Besides checking out the playbook, Californians can practice good habits — such as diet, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing — to help de-stress.

In other updates, Newsom reports the positive number of cases in California at 15,865, a 10.7% increase from yesterday. Hospitalizations have reached 2,611, a 4.1% increase and ICU hospitalizations are numbered at 1,108, a 2.1% increase. 

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Though these are not the double-digit increases that California was witnessing only a week ago, this does not mean that we are in the clear.

"We know that the bending or flattening of the curve means two things: it means our peak comes down, but it also goes further out," said Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Mark Ghaly. "So when we hear about the various models that say April is the time to see that peak time, or really that peak rate of surge, we know that our efforts–and congratulations to all the Californians who are rowing with us in that direction to flatten the curve–that it makes a difference and that we move that lower and further out."

Still, it will be a long road before we see just how much our efforts have helped slow the spread of coronavirus.

"We are bigger than anything we face," Governor Newsom said. "I know the fear and anxiety that we have, but let us have faith. Faith conquers all, and know that this will pass. It will pass."


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