Mental health and domestic violence during Covid

Since the start of the quarantine, Clarke County has been blessed to not see an increase in any major crime. Although the county has experienced some crime, such as shootings, it has not had to deal with more crimes than usual.

Law enforcement has seen an increase in one type of call, though: domestic violence.

Following social distancing protocol is critical to slowing the spread of coronavirus, but being isolated, especially over long periods of time, can affect emotional well-being and overall mental health.

Some of the most common symptoms people may experience are worry and anxiety. They may find themselves overthinking about the situation. Others may experience a down or depressed mood or irritability.

People may experience appetite and sleep changes, psychosomatic symptoms such headaches or stomachaches, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Some may increase use of alcohol or other substances. For children and teens, this may manifest itself behaviorally; for example, acting out more.

People with less social support, who are at higher risk – including the elderly and persons who are immunocompromised – or who have previous mental health or substance abuse histories may be disproportionately affected by isolation and related stressors.

Also, social distancing and sheltering in place could potentially be a dangerous scenario for those at risk of domestic violence. There have been anecdotal reports of increased call volumes to domestic violence agencies since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

“Our domestic violence calls have picked up since all of this started,” explained Sheriff Todd Kemp. “We’ve had more calls than usual on that. It’s just people are now having to stay gathered up together, and sometimes their tempers are flaring.”

What can people do to minimize those symptoms? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a number of good recommendations, including taking breaks from news about the pandemic and limiting time on social media. Of course, it's important to stay informed, but it's helpful to do so in doses.

Self-care is obviously important. Things such as eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, exercising, journaling and meditating are all common sense, beneficial activities. The reality is that everyone will experience this differently, and some will be more profoundly affected than others.

It is important to recognize that mental health is integrally linked with physical resources. The recent unemployment claims highlight how many people are living precariously in terms of employment, housing, etc. Checking in with individuals whose livelihoods are being affected or who were already living in precarious financial circumstances is important.

Efforts in social distancing may impact individuals' ability to seek in-person mental health treatment. However, many clinics/practitioners are offering tele-mental health services in lieu of traditional face-to-face sessions. If visiting a private clinic, individuals should double-check their insurance coverage regarding tele-mental health services. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi recently expanded its coverage in response to COVID-19.

Resources for people in crisis:

Individuals who are in crisis and having suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Resources for those in domestic violence situations include the National Domestic Violence hotline, telephone 800-799-7233, and the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence, online at https://mcadv.org.