Navigating Mental Health, Addiction, and Cancer in the Face of COVID-19

Navigating Mental Health, Addiction, and Cancer in the Face of COVID-19

By Ali O'Grady
April 01, 2020

As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content focus and will not encourage any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. We will also be providing tips and resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in the coming weeks. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!

I’m not going to sugarcoat it—things have been pretty heavy and uncertain recently, and it’s unclear how long it’s going to stay this way. So many of us were already up against some very real and difficult circumstances—from anxiety and depression to cancer, addiction, and beyond—before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now we’re navigating a whole new set of challenges and the range of emotions that come with them.

Meanwhile, the Internet exploded into one big Instagram Live self-help event seemingly overnight, leaving us to decide whether to a) hop on the New Year, New Me train (Quarantine Edition) or b) spiral into the media abyss and existential crisis that ensues in a life suddenly void of structure, accountability, and social contact.

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I’m also weighing the options and perplexed by the simultaneous over- and under-stimulation of life in lockdown, so I’m certainly not here to tell you which route to go. But I am here to remind you how incredibly resilient you are and to tell you to keep showing up—for yourself, for your loved ones, and for your community. While I didn’t foresee a global pandemic, this is exactly what I designed Thoughtful Human to do—help you communicate through adversity and find effective resources to navigate your respective journeys. So, here we are; I want to help you prioritize your own mental health and equip you with the tools to best support those who are isolated and most at-risk during this time.

While recommendations and resources are changing by the minute, here’s my company’s developing guide of COVID-19 resources for the mental health, addiction, and cancer communities.

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Therapy – Try (or Continue) It!
Altruistic as we may be, we are most effective in serving others when we ourselves are in a clear and calm headspace. The current climate has sent many of us to a much different place, so it is important to process whatever it is you may be feeling right now. However, I know the current uncertainty and financial challenges have left people uncomfortable spending on anything “non-essential.”

But you’re in luck—we think managing mental health during the pandemic is absolutely essential right now, so we have teamed up with BetterHelp to give you and your loved ones access to a month of free online therapy. If you’ve been on the fence or waiting for the right moment, this is your zero-excuse, zero-risk moment to give it a try via video, call, text, or messaging. Learn more here

(Note: This is not an ad or affiliate promotion, but simply an offer of goodwill to give more people access to the help they need right now!)

Community – Find or Build Yours!
While circumstances may require you to be physically alone right now, trust that as unique as your situation may be, there are others out there in similar positions who can provide support. If a call or video chat with friends and family is an option, great—do that! If not, there are a couple million (yes, million!) people currently connecting in meaningful ways around their health and mental health over on The Mighty (e.g. groups for #mentalhealth, #disability, #chronicillness, #raredisease, and many more). Through these tailored threads, you can share your thoughts or concerns, ask questions, and explore unique perspectives in a safe and inviting digital format.

If you’re not alone, consider sending some love to others who may be self-isolating with a card or letter (I’m a little biased, but Thoughtful Human’s Quarantine Support Bundles are a pretty good place to start!). If people in your neighborhood or apartment building are feeling a little lonely, encourage those on your block or floor to post a Community Connection Sign to lift spirits and remind each other of how many bright, lively personalities are behind each closed door.

Education and Additional Mental Health Resources
For additional information and resources related to mental health during the pandemic (e.g. “I’m having a lot of anxiety because of coronavirus. Please help.” or “I am quarantined or working from home—lonely and isolated even further—what can I do?”), check out the NAMI HelpLine Coronavirus Information and Resources Guide.

CANCER SUPPORT

While this is a scary time for everyone, it may be particularly challenging for patients and caregivers navigating various stages of cancer. Whether you are facing a possible diagnosis, preparing for a test or surgery, actively undergoing treatment, or recovering from surgery or treatment, the American Cancer Society has compiled a thorough list of questions to help you discuss and manage your risk of exposure to COVID-19 with your healthcare provider. View the full list here.

The experts and staff within the community are working hard to bring up-to-date, evidence-based information and digital tools to keep cancer patients educated and safe. Helpful resources and articles from the American Cancer Society include:

The Cancer Support Community also has numerous articles and resources, including: 

ADDICTION SUPPORT

While many things have come to an abrupt halt due to COVID-19, unfortunately, addiction is not one of them. This is a 24/7 challenge for people who are actively struggling, in recovery, or supporting someone facing an addiction. In what may be an incredibly triggering time and challenging environment for many, we need to show up with more empathy and compassion than ever before.

If you are actively in meetings, there are many virtual options now available to help you maintain your program. If you have been considering attending your first meeting, this may be a great opportunity to test the waters from the comfort of your home. If you or are a loved one are seeking a treatment program, there are still many options available. Check out the list of recommendations below from our partners at Lift the Label:

  • We Connect Recovery: Online recovery support groups available daily for anyone who is dealing with substance use, mental health concerns, disordered eating, or other quality-of-life concerns.
  • Unity Recovery + WEconnect + Alano Club: Recovery meetings daily at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (available on a Zoom platform).
  • SMART Recovery: Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) online support and forums include a chat room and a message board.
  • In the Rooms: Online recovery tool that offers 130 weekly online meetings, including all 12 Step, Non-12 Step, Wellness and Mental Health modalities.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous: Online support available.
  • Narcotics Anonymous: Online and Skype meetings available.
  • Cocaine Anonymous: Online services offered for Californians.
  • Sober Grid: A mobile platform to help people get sober and stay sober. Some join to get support, others to give it.
  • Soberistas: An international online recovery community to connect with like-minded women who are friendly and non-judgmental.
  • Reddit Recovery: A place for Redditors in recovery to hang out, share experiences, support each other, and discuss the various ways to achieve and maintain a life free from active addiction.
  • The Daily Pledge: An online support community with chat rooms and places to hang out virtually with friends in recovery.
  • SubstanceAbuse.com: An online guide for finding helpful addiction treatment resources.

In the wise words of singer John Mayer (now three years sober): “If you are in addiction recovery, please, please don’t give up. I know that this [coronavirus] seems like a scenario with a perfect out, the perfect reason, and it’s not the perfect reason—I promise you.”

I hope you found this helpful and would love your feedback as we work to bring you more relevant and actionable tools to push through this difficult time. Sending every kind of  *virtual* hug your way!

Free Thoughtful Human Recovery Cards are available at recoverycardsproject.com, courtesy of Liftthelabel.org and the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health.


Ali O'Grady

Ali O'Grady

Ali O’Grady is the founder of zero-waste card start-up Thoughtful Human. She works to take the “greetings” out and put the human back into cards and how we communicate—specifi…

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