Greene County launched a Take 5 for NY initiative last week encouraging residents to take five minutes out of each day to call a friend, loved one or acquaintance who may be alone and feeling isolated during this time of social distancing.
The initiative is part of a statewide effort promoted by the New York State Association of Counties.
“Participating county officials are calling on their residents to take just five minutes of every day to call on a loved one, friend, neighbor, acquaintance to say hi, check on them, see if they need anything, lift their spirits, and tell them they are not alone,” Association Executive Director Stephen Acquario said. “It doesn’t matter what you talk about. You can talk about this crisis or the latest show you are watching. The point is connecting with people in our community who could use it the most.”
With social gatherings suspended by the state of emergency order, many have opted to meet online.
Area mental health services, such as the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties, continue to provide resources and have licensed professionals available to residents.
While offices are closed, therapists are holding sessions over the phone or on web-based telehealth platforms.
People with pre-existing mental health conditions should continue with their treatment and be aware of new or worsening symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control recommended.
The Mental Health Association recommends following the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendations on taking care of one self and one’s community. One of the recommendations is to connect with others.
While people should refrain from visiting others, especially vulnerable populations, the CDC recommends checking in with loved ones often via phone, email, mail, text, video chat and social media.
“Social isolation can certainly exacerbate symptoms of existing mental health issues, including anxiety and depression which can be part of, or lead to disturbances in sleep, appetite and thought processing, just to name a few examples,” Julianne Baumann, program director and clinician with the Mental Health Association, said. “Social isolation has also been linked to physical illness as well. Add that to disruptions in your routine, the uncertainty of length and duration of the executive orders and recommendations made in regards to COVID-19 precautions, and loss of community support and resources, it is very important to reach out to people in a safe way.”
Baumann said coping with loneliness can be difficult, acknowledging feelings is important, and individuals have every right to feel lonely, scared and sad.
“Try to have a plan to reach out to someone or practice coping methods that work for you to help alleviate these feelings and create some calm and peace,” Baumann said. “A small gesture can be a lifeline for someone.”
For those in need of a daily check-in while practicing social distancing, Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett said Friday his department has established a new hotline.
It is for “the elderly and vulnerable in our county, including those with medical conditions or are disabled,” Bartlett said.
Participants in the program would have a deputy check daily on their well-being.
The number for the hotline is 518-828-0601, extension 1400. Bartlett said callers should leave a message.
“A time frame, morning or afternoon, will be established for when you would like the deputy to come to your residence,” Bartlett said. “When the deputy comes by, he or she will knock on the door, then retreat to a safe distance and wait for someone to signal that all is well inside.”
Abby Hoover is a reporter for Columbia-Greene Media. Contact her at email@example.com.