Change in routine, forced isolation can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts

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When someone hears, reads or watches news about an outbreak of an infectious disease, like COVID-19, the amount of stress they feel can go off the charts, according to the Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration.

The counselors of the U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz Army Substance Abuse Program whole-heartedly agree. Add to the 24-hour news cycle the unique conditions brought on from living overseas during a worldwide pandemic, and many employees working from home, experts say it’s not surprising depression and dark thoughts can set in.

Kristin James, garrison ASAP chief, said someone working from home or homeschooling their children must understand the situation is not their fault.

“We don’t have much control, if any, over the policies being implemented to control the spread of the virus. However, we can certainly control our own reaction to the situation,” James said. “Keeping the focus on what you control enhances your sense of empowerment. It’s also important to understand it is normal to feel stressed or anxious and it is healthy to verbalize your feelings and ask for help.”

Unlike any other nationwide or worldwide crisis, James said we’re all just a keystroke away from each other. She advises anyone feeling themselves slipping into depression, missing their co-workers or feeling disconnected during social distancing should start tapping away, using the positive aspects of social media.

“If an individual is currently in an administrative leave or telework status, there are still ways they can be a part of the community. If they have a skill or a talent to share with others, the garrison can use them to build virtual content for the community,” James said. “If nothing else, jot down the steps necessary to help reopen your work center and how you will contribute to the community’s return to routine operations, when that happens.”

Experts say during these uncertain times stress levels can become unbearable as information changes daily, due to many factors. Not to mention the added stress of increased workload on home life and work situations.

The SAHSA says to acknowledge the added stress on daily life. Enlist help to learn or build upon existing coping, problem-solving and communication skills. There are many resources in the USAG RP community, available via virtual or telephone counseling/coaching. Military Family Life Counselors, Employee Assistance Program coordinators and personal financial counselors are here locally, ready to connect with any employee, family member or service member.

“We have focused almost exclusively on the health and welfare of our Soldiers, Civilians and our families due to COVID-19,” said Col. Jason Edwards, garrison commander. “The same intensity should be maintained for suicide awareness. Above all we need to understand the signs and take the time to stay connected. This can be done virtually. Check in. Ask how your families, friends and teammates are doing. A simple interaction can make a difference.”

Anyone who feels like they need someone to talk to, hear a friendly voice or make an appointment with a life counselor can call 0162-774-2906 or 0162-251-8567.

On-call chaplains are available to all members of the community in Kaiserslautern at 0162-296-9054 and in Baumholder at 0162-270-8348.

Any military member, including Guard, Reserves and veterans who feel they may kill themselves, can call the Military/Veteran Crisis Line at 00800-1273-8255.