Deavon Collins, a mental health substance abuse counselor and community liaison, gives her take on how we can best navigate our ever-changing normal and careers.
Q: Over 30 million Americans have experienced layoffs, furloughs or lost their employment permanently. What are some coping techniques you can offer to help keep us grounded during such a tumultuous time?
A: I would first encourage one to stay positive as much as they can. Layoffs aren’t personal, although it may feel like they are. Explore all options as far as unemployment pay and health insurance. Be open for resources that can help you and don’t let pride get in the way. I would also say explore your talents that could possibly offer an income stream. Focus on a plan for the career that you want to have not just the job you lost. Set some realistic job goals and finally update your resume and review employment search engines and apply, apply, apply.
Q: The state of our country at this time can be quite traumatizing. We are constantly inundated with videos of people being killed or harmed, racist attacks like being spit on and violence. What can we do to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed?
A: Limit your time on social media as well as watching TV. Get outside and take a walk. These times can cause anxiety, irritability, depression and anger. Be kind to yourself. Process your feelings with a loved one or schedule a therapy session. Getting enough rest and staying hydrated are important while things are “heavy” right now.
Q: There tends to be a lot of red tape when it comes to accessing mental health services. What are some efficient ways people can get connected to resources quickly? Are there any free services people can seek to help them during these times?
A: There are several resources for free mental health services via toll free hotlines, Zoom meetings, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a 24-hour disaster distress helpline for clients during these uncertain times. English: 800-985-5990; Spanish: 800-985-5990 (select option 2); deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, can call their TTY line at 800-846-8517 or text TalkWithUS to 66746. More info can be found here. The Behavioral Health Division has a crisis line at 414-257-7222 and Impact Services can be reached by dialing 2-1-1 for many resources.
Q: Have you seen an uptick in people seeking mental health treatment since COVID-19 and the protests began?
A: I have seen reminders to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It’s OK to talk about what one may be experiencing on various social media platforms, but these platforms are where some of the negative images are displayed. These past few months of COVID and the past 10-plus days of protesting makes it even more important not to forget to wear protective gear. Wear masks, wash your hands or use sanitizer, wash your clothes after you come in after a protest. COVID-19 has not gone away. I pray that everyone takes heed of that message and seek counseling or use resources that can aid one with processing their feelings. I truly believe that the stigma behind seeking treatment for mental health is slowly going away.
Q: With a record number of people filing for unemployment benefits, what can job seekers do to maintain good mental health?
A: Keep a good support system around. Reach out to love ones, via telephone, FaceTime, Skype or have Zoom family meetings. Explore things that you once loved to do and have not had time to do. I always recommend the best six doctors, which are: Sunshine. Water. Rest. Air. Exercise. And diet.
Q: Experts say during COVID-19, people should limit their alcohol consumption. Why do people want to drink more during these times?
A: The pandemic is making people feel anxious and some people may try to numb their feelings with alcohol or other substances. It’s a struggle for people who don’t have a problem with alcohol, as well as those who want to stay sober and maintain their sobriety. If you are struggling with alcohol or other substances, there are many online meetings and resources. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Q: For people who want to participate in some form of protest besides marching, what other things could they do to feel a part of the movement?
A: Volunteering to clean up after a protest, mentor someone, donate money to a cause, VOTE, make phone calls, send emails, post positive messages or Black history facts on social media, read a book on the movement or watch a movie. Be the VOICE for your family. This can be a difficult conversation but monumental at the same time. Let’s not forget meditation and prayer work as well.
Q: There’s a blanket of distrust when it comes to people of color seeking mental health services, and some studies say black men are the worst at seeking help. As an African American therapist, how do you go about dispelling the myths and building community relationships to get more individuals to seek services?
A: Systemically there have been a cultural mistrust of health providers when it comes to African American men. There is a need to build a therapeutic alliance that can actually preserve African American men’s identity as well as their masculinity when it comes to their overall health. Building the community is necessary and in Milwaukee there’s a group of African American Mental Health and substance abuse therapists that have made themselves visible and more that are up and coming. We are becoming more visible so that the community is aware that there are therapists that look like them and understands the culture.
Q. Leave us with the top three things we can do as we navigate our current reality.
A. 1. Take care of yourself. (Social distancing, wash your hands, get rest, eat healthy food, and exercise.)
2. Limit your intake of too much news and social media. Especially the negative news. (meditate for 10 minutes a day, listen to music, download a stress relieving app)
3. Practice random acts of kindness. (Write a letter, send flowers to a family member, leave a thank you note for your postal worker. Write a positive comment on a colleague or friends LinkedIn post or endorse a skill for them). Finally, smile. It’s contagious.