Coronavirus is advancing in Westchester. Everyone can feel afraid or anxious in isolation. Some even panic. This impacts us all and more significantly if we have a mental illness. New York State residents now have the support of mental health professionals who have volunteered their services to offer free mental health counseling. Appointments can be scheduled through the NYS COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-844-863-9314.
In making the announcement on Wednesday, March 26, Sen. David Carlucci thanked the "6,000 selfless mental health professionals" who volunteered. Carlucci, a Democrat who represents the 38th District, is chairman of New York State Senate's Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee.
"Many are experiencing fear and anxiety of the unknown, and we want to ensure New Yorkers have access to the emotional support they need through this public health crisis," said Carlucci. "New Yorkers are strong, and we will get through this together. No one is alone."
Joanna Pomerantz, a licensed clinical social worker from Greenburgh in private practice in Manhattan is one of them. She anticipates hearing from individuals to address everything about this "very anxiety-inducing disease," which invokes feelings of "What can go wrong?" and "When will it be over?"
"There's been a lot of panic about what we should be worried about and what not to worry about," Pomerantz said in a conversation with Daily Voice Plus. "When you go to the supermarket and see they ran out of something, should you worry? People are out of jobs dealing with their kids at home and helping them virtually learn. Businesses have closed.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Westchester, which helps individuals with mental illness and their families through many support groups and classes throughout the county, has had to cancel all programs but has a helpline at 914-592-5458 open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help redirect anyone needing information and support. Coronavirus Resources are available on the NAMI Westchester website.
Anyone in need of mental health services — and especially those having a difficult time — should be reaching out to their therapist or psychiatrist, according to NAMI Westchester Executive Sharon McCarthy, who is helping with the calls.
"This is a time more than ever that we need to reach out to one another," said McCarthy.
She related she'd just had an hour-long Facetime with a friend in London and has texted daily with her daughter.
"I really think that's the big thing," continued McCarthy. "We need to connect. I think that's more important than anything — whether you have a mental health condition or not — because we're all isolated and that's going to get to people."
Young and old are affected by the stress of this unique time. In particular, Pomerantz considered how the health crisis might be impacting young people, perhaps college seniors about to graduate and now wondering, 'Will there be a job for me?'
She also commented on how people have been supporting one another.
"This is universal. People step up. This is a beautiful thing. They have an appreciation for things they would (previously) take for granted."We all need to be kind to our minds in these uncertain and difficult times."