Coping with COVID for the Holidays
By Dianne Anderson
Trudging through months of extensive job loss and health impact, the community is finding ways to cope with the fallout from the outbreak — and now the holidays are coming.
This season will be unlike any other for many families, and many face the prospect of their first holiday season without their loved ones for celebrations.
Local health advocate Linda Hart said that based on the sheer number of people hurting with mental health or health issues, the community should be aware that the holidays are often hard emotional triggers.
“Right now everybody is operating in survival mode and just trying to not catch it,” she said. “When they sit down at that table and look across for someone that is not sitting there, people are going to finally realize this is real,” said Hart, CEO of the African American Health Coalition.
Anyone battling depression or facing COVID-related anxiety needs to know that help is available. She is working with the nonprofit Pacific Clinic, along with the San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health to point the community to resources.
At the clinics she partners with, she said health workers are seeing an increase in calls for help.
Hart was also recently selected as an African American stakeholder advisor for the state Mental Health Services Act Oversight and Accountability Commission.
She is concerned about challenges facing the Black community and barriers to services.
“People do not see the tsunami coming. I do. Both holidays are back to back, and it’s a known fact that depression increases through the holidays,” she said.
Suicide rates trend higher during the spring and fall, according to the CDC, and there is an increase in substance abuse, mental health issues and suicide ideation since the pandemic.
Craig Jackson, 34, is all too familiar with the struggle to cope with a death in the family, and losing someone close. It can take years to recover.
Many years ago, his older sister, who was his shero, committed suicide.
It was a long emotionally arduous process just to back to even keel, but he didn’t go it alone. He attributes his healing to prayer and putting God first. Jackson also kept a journal as an outlet for his thoughts about his sister, and the emotional roller coaster of losing her.
“Sometimes you try to numb a certain emotion, or substitute it with jokes. Three or four months later in the middle of the night, you’re crying. It’s a shock, especially [when it’s your] role model. It’s hard to get over it,” he said.
Therapy helped. For those dealing with grief, he advises not to self-isolate, self-medicate and to connect as much as possible with others.
Emotions bottled up leads to anger and frustration.
“It’s good to talk about it, talk to a friend going through the situation that lost somebody. They can tell you how they got through it,” he said. “I’ve talked to a therapist a few times and she gave me exercises to get through those rough times, especially the first couple of years.”
At San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health, the motto is there is no wrong door to get services. Anyone struggling with a mental health crisis and seeking treatment can contact their department 24/7.
Spokesperson Aimara Freeman said their community crisis team is available by phone, or easy to reach text that is confidential and free.
“After COVID hit, we found not everybody felt comfortable talking so we set up some phone numbers, with three new texting options for people hard of hearing, or prefer to send a text if they’re in crisis and overwhelmed,” Freeman said.
The CDC estimates that since the pandemic, one-third of all Americans are showing signs of depression or anxiety.
Freeman has heard concerns about how COVID impacts the way people grieve because they are limited at gatherings when there’s a death in the family. Hospitals are also limiting the number of people that can visit their loved ones.
It is taking a toll, but she said their clinics are never closed. They service Medi-Cal or uninsured patients, and those with serious or persistent mental illness.
The department is getting the word out to the community through all venues, and social media. She said a counselor will call back for any inquiries they receive.
“At least a dozen times in the past six months we’ve received messages on social media from people in crisis,” she said. “We provide crisis information number, [they say] I’m thinking about this, I have a family member in crisis and I don’t know where to go, we always follow up.”
For more information on San Bernardino County Behavioral Health free mental health and clinic services, see:
For the 24/7 suicide prevention hotline,
Call 800-273-TALK (8255) or see <https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
To learn more about the African American Health Coalition, see