L.A. County offering mental health services 24/7 amid coronavirus outbreak, provides tips to stem anxiety

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Los Angeles County is offering mental health services for those suffering loneliness or anxiety amid the coronavirus pandemic and have set up a number to call for resources.

Officials on Tuesday also provided tips on how to stem anxiety during these difficult times.

The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-854-7771. If you prefer texts, you can message “home” to 741741 to be connected with a trained counselor.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger continued to emphasize the importance of social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19, but said that people don't have to feel lonely.

“I want to reaffirm, social distancing does not mean isolation," she said during a news conference Tuesday. "As we are spending more of our time in our homes, it requires us to be extra intentional to stay connected to our friends, family and our neighbors. Caring for our health and reaching out to others is more important now than ever."

She encouraged residents to stay connected in "creative ways" via phone calls, text and video chats.

"Being safer at home doesn’t mean being lonely," the supervisor said.

She added that it's important to be mindful of others, and said offering a helping hand can help stem fears.

"Consider lending a hand to a neighbor in need by dropping off groceries, or send a letter to a loved one to let them know you’re just thinking about them," she said.

She said that it is OK to ask for help and that residents can take advantage of the tools offered by the Department of Mental Health.

Dr. Jonathan Sherin, director of the agency, reiterated that social distancing guidelines are physical, not emotional, and that everyone is learning to adapt to a new way of life.

"Whether or not we have suffered with mental health challenges before, as individuals or families, or even organizations, managing such radical change over a short period of time can be very difficult," Sherin said. "In particular, with change comes the unknown, a perceived loss of control, fear for our safety and heightened anxiety can be especially tough on kids, who like everyone, require routine."

The director said that during these high-stress times, it's important to reach out and express feelings with someone you trust: a family member, friend or a mental health professional, which is offered through the county number.

Sherin said experts are available to accept calls, provide information and help through mental health issues residents are facing.

Sherin offered tips on how to ease anxiety while staying home. He suggested keeping a healthy routine whenever possible, like getting enough rest, eating well and exercising. Setting up new or improved routines can help manage stress, as well.

"Staying at home and slowing down your pace can be a way to relax," Sherin said. "Pick up old hobbies, or take care of things you have been putting off."

It's also important to not rely on dangerous routines, like doing drugs or drinking alcohol to numb anxiety, the doctor said.

Sherin championed other agencies in the county for coming together and creating ways to help the community amid the crisis.

“Rather than panic, we remain calm in the face of adversity," he said. “Please reach out, take care of one another and stay united for our collective mental health and well-being.”

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