KSAT Community virtual Mental Health Town Hall

1 in 5 U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year

KSAT Community to host virtual Mental Health Town Hall
KSAT Community to host virtual Mental Health Town Hall

SAN ANTONIO – With millions of people in the U.S. affected by mental illness each year, it’s important to measure how common mental illness is — especially with the COVID-19 pandemic creating an unprecedented climate.

Several factors related to COVID-19 are impacting the mental health of our community members including the unprecedented changes and fear of the unknown. Additionally, people may have experienced an incredible loss of loved ones to the virus.

Families are also dealing with the stress and uncertainty around homeschooling and virtual schooling balanced with the safety of their children.

“We have seen an increase in anxiety, depression, sleep disruption, and stress”, said Ebony Jackson, Licensed Psychologist/PICU Unit Director for the San Antonio State Hospital. “Some of my patients have reported increased paranoia regarding masks. Many are overwhelmed with the changes and have difficulty coping. People often feel isolated.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, 1 in 25 U.S. adults experience serious mental illness each year and 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.

To help individuals with mental health concerns, KSAT Community held a virtual Mental Health Town Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 26 from 2-3 p.m. livestreamed on KSAT.com. A panel of experts answered questions live and viewers learned the signs of mental illness, how to report it and where to seek help.

The experts featured included Dr. Brigitte Bailey, Talli Dolge (CEO of Jewish Family Service of San Antonio), Dr. Olvera (Chief Medical Officer for The Center for Health Care Services), Gilbert Gonzales (Director, Bexar County Department of Behavioral and Mental Health) and Dr. Eboney Jackson (Licensed Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital).

KSAT Community Mental Health Virtual Town Hall

Call these groups if you need mental health support:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK.
  • Center for Health Care Services (CHCS) crisis line 210-223-SAFE.
  • Center for Health Care Services 210-261-1250 for Adults; 210-261-3350 for Children.
  • Texas COVID Mental Health Support Line 833-986-1919.
  • CHCS COVID-19 Crisis Counseling 210-540-7401.

Ways to promote mental wellness while working from home provided by the San Antonio State Hospital:

  • Get plenty of rest and physical activity.
  • Establish a dedicated workspace.
  • Keep a work schedule (establish and start and stop time).
  • Try your best to establish a routine and organize your work/school space.
  • Stay connected: physical distance vs social distance. Use technology for video meetups.
  • Limit media intake: stay informed but do not overdose on news and media.
  • Define who does what, where, and when: with spouses and kids working from home, it can be important to designate physical workspace and work times.
  • Maintain or implement a gratitude practice.
  • Get creative: arts and crafts, reading, writing, listen to music, play music, sing.
  • Physical activity: moving your body is a huge stress reliever.
  • Take a walk, do some stretches, have a 5-minute dance party.
  • Get fresh air when you can.
  • Do things that you enjoy.
  • Practice compassion for yourself and others.
  • Seek professional counseling if necessary.

“Remember to keep things in perspective,” Jackson said. “While this current pandemic can be incredibly stressful for many of us, it won’t last forever. Be mindful of the things you can control and things you can’t.”

What are signs that people need to seek mental health support, counseling, etc. or even self-harm?

Jackson advises if your symptoms interfere with your ability to function normally at work, school or home then you should seek professional help. Signs of suicide include hopelessness, depressed mood, isolation/withdrawal, giving away items, no sign of future planning, etc.

How can people help their loved one with mental health issues?

Reach out and offer emotional support if their condition isn’t debilitating. Check-in on loved ones regularly. Encourage them to seek professional help.

If they are an immediate danger to themselves or others please have them go to the nearest ER for an evaluation.

To learn more, the Bexar County Department of Behavioral Health website has information on hotlines, including telehealth resources. For COVID-19 related mental concerns and resources, click here.

KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health System, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.

About the Author:

Kiersten has been a Digital Content Creator with KSAT12 since 2017. She graduated from Texas State University with an electronic media degree and previously worked for the Spurs Sports & Entertainment.