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LaGrange Youth Council discuss mental health during COVID-19

Three members of the LaGrange Youth Council discussed the importance of mental health during a live video roundtable discussion on Thursday.

Council members Emma Strickland, Libby Criswell and Gabe Martinez hosted Dr. Kelly Veal from The Veal Group, a mental health services program, to talk about resources and how to handle mental health during the pandemic.

“I want everybody to understand that we are going through a trauma together,” Veal said. “I want people to understand that this is a global pandemic. This is a global trauma. We are all experiencing it all together. You are going to have good days, and you are going to have bad days.”

Veal said that everyone is experiencing some grief due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But you will also begin to show signs of resilience and strength,” Veal said. “Amazing things are also going to come out of this. I have seen amazing stories of people helping others, giving back and staying more connected with others than we were before.”

Strickland asked Veal to go over ways and tips for how people should handle their mental health during this time.

“Go easy on yourself,” Veal said. “Give yourself some grace and know that not every day is going to be great. You are going to have some experiences with depression and anxiety, and that is a normal part of dealing with a global trauma that we are going through right now.”

Veal also recommended that people need to be mindful of how much they watch the news.

“We can get absorbed by that,” Veal said. “It is important to stay informed and to know what is going on. But limiting your time is very, very important for you. The rest of the time, you should focus on other more positive ways you can give back to your community, stay invested and stay connected with others.”

The state of Georgia offers a 24/7 COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline at 1-866-399-8938.

“We are all going through this,” Veal said. “We are all facing those days where we are anxious and overwhelmed.”

Veal also added that individuals should check on their friends and family through this time.

“If you are worried about someone and think that they could be a suicide risk, ask them,” Veal said. “Say, ‘hey, I am worried about you, and I just want to ask to see if you are considering taking your life.’ Just be direct with them. I know it is uncomfortable, but it automatically reduces the risk for the client or the friend not to do that.”

Other free hotlines that those who may need emotional and mental health support can call are:

  • The Georgia Crisis and Access Line, available 24/7, at 1-800-715-4225.
  • The CARES Warm Line for substance abuse challenges, call or text every day 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • The Peer2Peer Warm Line, available 24/7, which provides peer support at 1-888-945-1414
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24,7 at 1-800-273-8255.

Some of the warning signs of suicide are indicators that a person may want to harm themselves.

“Prior suicide attempts show self-injured behavior,” Veal said. “If you know someone has attempted before, that puts them at a higher risk. If someone is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, that heightens their risk. Some other symptoms are a complete lack of interest in things they used to enjoy. Hopelessness, feeling worthless, not sleeping and hallucinations are factors that are concerning. That would be a time to go ahead and ask that question (about suicide).”

Veal said that despite the uncertainty and grief that people may be going through, they should try and find meaning in their suffering.

“We have an opportunity to lean into this pandemic and this time,” Veal said. “We can take meaning out of what this is, what beauty that is going to come of this, how will this change you and what can we appreciate and not take for granted.”

The Veal Group is also available for support during this time by going to thevealgroup.com or calling (706)756-1970.