COVID-19: Caring for Your Mental Health During This Unprecedented Crisis

MHA of Essex-Morris and NewBridge Services Offer Assistance

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to climb and with workplaces and schools closed, anxiety is on the rise. It is important during this time, to take care of ourselves physically and mentally. As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week, “we have to find some peace” in dealing with this situation for an extended time.

For those who are struggling, you can find assistance online site or by phone. For example, NJ Mental Health Cares, the state’s behavioral health information and referral service, has set up a helpline for people dealing with anxiety and worry.

Morris County residents can call 866-202-HELP (4357) for free, confidential support.  NJ Mental Health Cares will be answered from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week by live trained specialists.

Also, you can Contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services or SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 that provides 24/7, 365-day-a- year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

The Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris has compiled a list of tips and resources to assist individuals and families with self-care.

Ways to Cope

  • Connect with family and friends by phone, e-mail, or social media.
  • Partake in activities that are soothing: take a warm bath; practice deep breathing; cook comfort foods.
  • Distract yourself by doing activities that keep you busy: gardening; doing art work. Listen to music and watch comedy movies that will make you laugh and lighten your mood.
  • Limit your news and media intake.
  • Go out in the fresh air and take a walk. Walking is one of the best exercises to help mitigate anxiety.
  • Keep a schedule and stay as close to your typical routine as possible. This will help you to have a sense of control and bring some normalcy to your day.
  • Remember that THIS WILL COME TO AN END as every other pandemic that has ever happened in history has and that your lives will return again to normal.

Mental Health and COVID-19 Resources

  1. Talking to Kids about the Coronavirus
  2. Mental Health Resources
  3. Online Recovery Meetings
  4. Resources for Arts & Entertainment
  5. Educational Resources
  6. Resources for Health & Wellness
  7. Faith Based Resources

Also, NewBridge Services is offering some excellent advice on dealing with the situation. Visit them online  to get help on how not to panic during this crisis. Some tips from NewBridge:

How Not To Panic

  • Take deep calming belly breaths and exhale slowly for a minute
  • Limit your exposure to graphic news stories 
  • Get accurate, timely information from reliable sources 
  • Maintain your normal routine as much as possible 
  • Eat well and rest 
  • Stay active both physically and mentally 
  • Stay in touch with family and friends 
  • Find comfort in your spiritual and personal beliefs
  • Keep a sense of humor 
  • Share your concerns with others 
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

COVID-19 And Mental Illness, NAMI Releases Important Information

From NAMI:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, released a guide to answer frequently asked questions regarding the intersection between Coronavirus, or COVID-19, and people affected by mental illness, their caregivers and loved ones.  Read the guide!

“We recognize that people living with mental illness face additional challenges dealing with COVID-19, as do their caregivers and loved ones,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison, Jr. “That’s why we are releasing an information and resource guide with FAQs on a variety of topics from managing anxiety and social isolation to accessing healthcare and medications. NAMI is here to help.”

For more updates on mental illness and COVID-19, visit NAMI’s regularly updated webpage.

Heroin and Opioid Art Exhibition: Artist Calls

From Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey:

5th Annual Heroin and Opioid Art Exhibition

The Drug Enforcement Administration, New Jersey Division and the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, in conjunction with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, The Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse along with the Ammon Foundation invite you to participate in the 5th Annual Heroin and Opioid Art Exhibition highlighting heroin and opioid abuse, addiction and recovery.

Deadline to submit: April 27th, 2020

Cash Prizes are awarded for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place and Honorable Mention

For more information please visit: drugfreenj.org/HeroinArtExhibit

“Suicide: The Ripple Effect” film

Q&A and Discussion on the topic will follow the film

A presentation of the documentary film “Suicide, the Ripple Effect,” will be shown Feb. 18 in Madison.  The film focuses on the devastating effects of suicide and the tremendous positive ripple that effects of advocacy, inspiration and hope that are creating to help millions heal and stay alive. It will be followed by a question and answer session and discussion.

The event is Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Drew University’s Ehinger Center, 36 Madison Avenue, Madison. Admission is free and the public is invited. The film is appropriate for ages 10 and up. For parking and directions, visit drew.edu/maps. For more information about the Feb. 18 event, email bboetticher@drew.edu. Download the flyer here: STRE Flyer.

The feature-length film chronicles the story of Kevin Hines, who at age 19 attempted to take his life by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Since then, Kevin has been on a mission to use his story to help others stay alive and find recovery.

The event is sponsored by a trio of Drew University Civic Scholars, Brittany Boetticher, Katie Cashin and Hannah Winter, and is a continuation of Boetticher’s Girl Scout Gold Award program, when she organized events to show the film in Jefferson Township.

The countywide Morris County Stigma-Free initiative is focused on removing the stigma associated with mental illness and substance abuse, to foster a climate of healing and recovery.

The primary reason people fail to seek the help they need is due to the stigma associated with the disease of mental illness. Main reasons cited are shame and fear of judgment from friends, family and co-workers. Such judgment is often rooted in a lack of knowledge or training.

Morris County is committed to disseminating information and fostering a stigma-free environment where people are free from judgment and can get the help they need to recover from diseases such as mental illness and substance abuse.

Prosecutor’s Office Participates at “A Night of Conversation – From Prescription to Addiction” at Lakeland Hills YMCA

On November 19, 2019, Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp, Senator Anthony M. Bucco, Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, Lakeland Hills YMCA CEO Dr. Vik Joganow, and Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury, presented on how the heroin and opioid epidemic is affecting New Jersey residents. The program was held at the Lakeland Hills YMCA in Mountain Lakes. Representatives from Morris County Sheriff’s Office’s Hope One, Saint Clare’s Behavioral Health and other substance abuse recovery providers were onsite providing information and education. About 30 audience members attended the presentation, including local high school students.

Prosecutor Knapp stressed that this epidemic does not escape any community, and insight imparted to attendees is intended to start community conversations in their households and upcoming Thanksgiving tables. The epidemic touches everyone, according to the Prosecutor.

Senator Bucco discussed the need for additional state funding to fight addiction and to secure more treatment facilities.

Sheriff Gannon discussed his Office’s Hope One program, a mobile recovery access vehicle which offers support for persons struggling with addiction, and medically-assisted treatment programs available at the Morris County Correctional Facility. Twice a week, Hope One travels to locations throughout Morris County with a Sheriff’s officer, a licensed clinician, and a peer recovery specialist to recovery services.

CAP Seabury noted that since 2014, at least 342 people in Morris County have lost their lives to heroin or prescription drug overdoses. CAP Seabury discussed the Overdose Prevention Act and Drug Court program, criminal justice measures to treat and not just incarcerate individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders.

Kate Garrity provided the audience with a heartfelt, firsthand story of how the Epidemic has affected her life. She shared the tragic story of her son who passed away in 2016 from an overdose, as a way to both keep his memory alive and to help inform the community that it can happen to their children whether they believe it will or not.

Prosecutor Knapp said “The heroin and opioid epidemic continues to be a scourge on the citizens of New Jersey. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, in partnership with other stakeholders, will continue to combat this epidemic through our various initiatives and our strong focus on educating the public.”

Inquiries concerning this press release should be directed to Public Information Officer Meghan Knab at mknab@co.morris.nj.us or pressinquiry@co.morris.nj.us or by phone at 973-829-8159.  

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Features Editor Michelle Walsh

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by CCM Features Editor Michelle Walsh:

Michelle WalshAs a child, I yanked my shoelaces until the aglets broke, and couldn’t tolerate wearing anything with buttons, zippers, etc. Doctors were clueless that I was struggling with anxiety.

OCD has accompanied me for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would look at road signs and add the digits to make an even number. Early on, I learned I could find control in the law abiding, unwavering solidity that is math.

After starting middle school, I quickly inherited different forms of eating disorders and self-harm, ultimately leading me to spiral. Whatever I tried, these different vices only gave the illusion of control.

One of the most disastrous coping skills I inherited was dissociation. Dissociation was a coping skill brought on by the introduction of the heaviest antidepressant I was on. Being on a near toxic dose made me feel as if I was a voyeur to my own life. Alongside this, I was involved in several car accidents, one including the totaling of 2 cars and several visits to court.

Cycling out of centers and hospitals, a vast array of labels and corresponding medications were given to me like candy. From Attention Deficit, Borderline Personality, Generalized Anxiety, Unipolar and Bipolar, I was medicated with anything they thought could give me relief.

It wasn’t until I reached Princeton House wherein they correctly diagnosed me with CPTSD and OCD, and therefore placed me into a trauma-based program. I quickly learned that trauma was the root of all my suffering.

I was also placed on medication that saved my life. Currently, I am still searching for the ideal combination of therapy and medication.

Struggling with mental illness has led to me becoming an advocate for others and myself. I found myself recently within a group that hushed me when I spoke of my traumas. From this, I unearthed that silence begets silence and that we are losing if we choose to stay silent in the face of egregious action. I continued following my passion, and have cultivated a life I am proud is mine.

Irregardless of my achievements, my OCD is never satiated. I still struggle with an achievement equals worth mindset, despite countless therapies and medications. I’ve made peace that my mental illness and I must coexist for me to exist.

The scars left behind are representative of a battle I choose to fight every day, and show that relentless hope overpowers relentless mental illness.

Break the Stigma – Start a Conversation!

From Life Center Stage:

Help us Break the Stigma and inspire hope! Please share this video and start a conversation!

On June 22, 2019, a festival dedicated to “Breaking the Stigma” was held on the Morristown Green. The festival was aimed at inspiring hope through the sharing of personal stories of recovery from substance use disorder and/or mental health. The community members performed original songs and cover songs related to their stories to raise awareness. Alternative community activities such as drumming, yoga, and interactive art, mask-making and a “I AM” photo shoot were available inviting the community to connect with one another. Six courageous and amazingly talented people shared their stories of recovery from substance use disorders, depression, boarderline personality, postpartum depression, eating disorders, and anxiety to help break the stigma that prevents far too many from seeking help. There is hope! Don’t give up!

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Coordinator Eric Pedersen

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by CCM Engineering Lab Coordinator Eric Pedersen:

Eric Pedersen

My name is Eric Pedersen. I am a CCM graduate and have worked in CCM’s Engineering Department since 2012. I am the Lab Coordinator for Mechanical Engineering Technology and Physics, and I teach a couple of sections of our Manufacturing Process course. My official diagnoses are Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Personally, anyone with ADD can attest, it makes life interesting and often impulsive. ADD is blessing in disguise, and with it usually comes a fountain of creativity and unlimited drive when it is channeled in the right way.

Major Depressive Disorder and OCD have been incredibly difficult for me literally, as long as I can remember. Until seeking more help for those in 2013, I had really hit rock bottom emotionally. Months of insomnia, crippling depression, and social anxiety, that made work and life in general, difficult to navigate.

However, looking back, that low point was the best thing that ever happened to me. I met amazing counselors and doctors, and opened up in ways I never thought I would. My wife has somehow always seen the best in me and has supported me since the day we met, through those breakdowns…. I would not be where I am in life without her. We now have two beautiful children and I am blessed to have learned the lessons, patience, and trust of others during those tough times.

Anyone who knows me knows that what drives me is helping others. I always try to do that at CCM and at the end of the day, helping others through their struggles is all that actually matters in life. Our life’s purpose is to help others. I won’t say Despite My Diagnosis, but thanks to my diagnosis and the supportive people I have met along the way, I am hopefully able to be a positive presence in others’ lives every day.

We meet many people in life who espouse negativity, but there are many more positive souls than we realize. They don’t seek attention or accolades and tend to blend in. But when others need help, there are so many willing to help.

“Despite My Diagnosis…” Stigma Story by CCM Contributor Tatiana Bonner

The Youngtown Edition (the school newspaper of the County College of Morris) is working with two other CCM clubs this semester, Active Minds and Writers Club, on a series about students in the process of recovery. This series is called “Despite My Diagnosis.” Read one of these stories, by Tatiana Bonner:

Tatiana Bonner

I was only 16 when I was diagnosed with Bipolar I. Something my mother’s family never saw coming, something I feared would shame them for the rest of eternity. I come from a long line of Italians. People who were taught to suck it up after World War II had ended. People who pushed their problems to the side, and acted as if nothing was wrong.

I never once thought that I should seek help for my prolonged sadness. For the longest time, I thought it was normal to feel that way. I’d let the little demons in my mind toy with my head. I’d let them get the best of me each and every time. I pushed my friends out, and built my walls up. I didn’t want anyone to know just how vulnerable I was. I wanted to suffer alone. My mother never saw the signs, as she didn’t even know what to look for. She never worried because I’d act like the world’s happiest person around her. I didn’t need her to worry. I also certainly didn’t want anyone’s pity. I’d felt that enough after the death of my brother, and pity was one thing that bothered me. It was one thing that I could not stand. Some days, getting out of bed was a process. I’d have to drag myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Every word spoken to me was like a poison to my ears, in the aspect of the fact that I did not want to hear it. It was a miserable existence.

My sadness would turn into Mania, into happiness, into irritability, and actions I could not control. The even sadder bit, was that I often would not remember the days I spent Manic. I would lose time from the story of my life. People would ask what I did yesterday, and I could not answer them. I knew I wasn’t myself anymore when I went home and asked to be signed up for a gym membership, when my depression was dragging me down into my sorrows, and I had absolutely no energy to even think about going to the gym. I knew something was wrong when my mother would be angered at me for having a fit that I could not even remember. I knew something was wrong when I went to the doctor, and they handed me a depression screening, and every single blurb on the little white paper made me feel as if someone from the office had been monitoring me. I grew paranoid. My mind played even worse tricks with me. I knew the government was watching me. I knew all about their plan to harvest my organs, and sell them on the black market. My mania went as far as me spending nearly three hundred dollars alone at Hot-Topic, just because I was convinced that the world was ending, and that I wouldn’t get the chance to spend that money tomorrow.

My mother thought nothing of it. She was never taught anything about mental illness. She didn’t think anything was wrong with me until I woke up at three o’clock in the morning, and ran into my grandmother’s room, screaming and crying about the man in my closet, who ate my dog who was clearly okay and sleeping in his bed in the next room over. I didn’t remember this at all the next day. That’s when my mother and grandmother had decided that I needed to seek help, and took me to the doctor, who agreed that something was wrong.

They made me pour my thoughts out on the table. They made me expose each and every one of my problems and fears. I was given medication, and the number to a therapist. My first few therapists told me I was exaggerating, and always put down my problems. I’d get to the second or third therapy session, and never go back. That was until I met my current therapist, who sat with me, and listened to me, and understood me when I spoke to her. She told me and my family that I had Bipolar I and Anxiety, and that I needed to see a psychiatrist, for my medications to be managed. My first psychiatrist was a complete idiot. She continuously put me on SSRIs, medications that I would learn are not always helpful to someone with Bipolar, as they basically make you more upbeat, often activating mania. Each time I went back to her with a new complaint, she’d threaten me with inpatient, something I certainly didn’t want to go into. My family saw that I was miserable, and decided to pull me from her care. We spent a long while looking for a decent doctor, until I met my current one, who listens to me, and actually does something when I say that my medication doesn’t make me feel too good.

It was 2 years prior to my diagnosis that I spent suffering in silence. Then, it took me two whole years after my diagnosis to get settled into it all. At first I was ashamed to say that I have Bipolar Disorder. I feared what people would think of me. I worried that they would think I was crazy or disturbed. I would scribble the words “Manic Depression” across forms at doctor’s offices, out of shame to say the word “Bipolar”. Even to this day, I still feel my heart racing in my chest every time someone asks me, “So, you have Bipolar?”.

Three years after my diagnosis, and I am doing wonderful. I’ve come to terms with my mental illness. My medications are managed well, and I’m seeing an awesome therapist. I still have my dog, my fish, and my plant collection, which all keeps me going. Keeping things alive helps me to feel alive. I am so, so happy that someone finally saw that something was wrong, and helped me to seek help. I don’t know that I ever would have on my own. Despite my diagnosis, I wake up in the morning. Despite my diagnosis, I get out of bed. I brush my teeth. I care for my body. I push myself to succeed. I keep feeling, I keep dreaming.

Despite my diagnosis, I keep living.

Prosecutor’s Office Delivers Opioid Presentation to Picatinny Arsenal

On October 21, Morris County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury provided an “Opiates 101” presentation at Picatinny Arsenal in recognition of the National Red Ribbon Campaign and Army Substance Abuse Program (A.S.A.P.).

Seabury was joined by Christopher Moore, Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program Manager, and Andrea Pastuck, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center.

Seabury presenting in front of a projection screen
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Brad Seabury

The presentation was held in observation of Red Ribbon Week, a Department of Defense initiative to encourage service members to keep communities drug-free and to recognize outstanding outreach programs.

The “Opiates 101” presentation provided the audience with information concerning the heroin and opioid epidemic affecting New Jersey residents, as well as what measures members of law enforcement are taking to fight this scourge.

Seabury discussed the Overdose Prevention Act and Drug Court program, criminal justice measures to treat and not just incarcerate individuals suffering from substance abuse disorders; New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) database; and the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations Intelligence Center Drug Monitoring Initiative, utilizing real-time intelligence.

CAP Seabury noted that since 2014, at least 342 people in Stigma-Free Morris County have lost their lives to heroin or prescription overdoses. CAP Seabury enforced that community education is a crucial component to combatting the crisis.

“This disease does not discriminate, it affects people of all different backgrounds,” said Seabury. “We know from this particular community problem that our traditional methodology of arrest and prosecute are not conducive to help individuals suffering from addiction. Instead, substance abuse-affected offenders need treatment to break the cycle of addiction.”

Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp said, “The heroin and opioid epidemic continues to be a scourge on the citizens of New Jersey. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office will continue to combat this epidemic through our various initiatives and our strong focus on educating the public.”