3 takeaways from KSAT’s mental health town hall

San Antonio-area experts talk about re-entering society as coronavirus vaccine rates increase and cases drop

SAN ANTONIO – Stress and anxiety were part of our lives before the coronavirus pandemic, but over the past year, they have risen to new levels for a massive number of people.

On Wednesday, KSAT’s Myra Arthur hosted a mental health town hall with four local experts, including Talli Dolge, CEO of Jewish Family Service of San Antonio; Evita Morin, CEO of Rise Recovery; Marian Sokol, CEO of Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas; and Jessica Knudsen, CEO of Clarity Child Guidance Center.

Below are some of the key points from the town hall. The full livestream is available in the video player above.

1) How should we be thinking about mental health in 2021?

Mental health involves a person’s psychological and social well-being. It also affects the way someone acts on a daily basis. Dolge says mental health and mental illness are two different things.

“Mental health is your mental well-being,” said Dolge. “Mental illness is a diagnosed mental disorder, like severe depression, bipolar, schizophrenia.”

2) How have children’s mental health been affected over the past year?

Children experiencing grief is a normal thing, but the past year has been more difficult than any normal year on kids (and parents).

“When you’re affected by this, a death, in particular, usually the most comforting thing is to have people around,” said Marian Sokol, CEO of the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas. “During the pandemic, it’s been difficult for families... they haven’t felt safe hugging. When you tell your children things are alright and they see you with a mask on, it makes them feel like things are not alright.”

Sokol also says family time is important, as well as finding new and creative ways to compensate for the experiences your child has lost.

“Part of it is perspective, I believe in trying to look at the things you do have rather than not,” Sokol said. “We can’t capture the normalcy we had before in terms of school events, all the sports that they’ve missed, but we can still celebrate what we have.”

3) Are people struggling to get prepared for the ‘new normal’?

As vaccination rates increase and more people are heading back in to school, the workplace and events, many are feeling anxious about being around people again for the first time in over a year.

Dolge says being aware of how you are feeling is a key part in getting back into society.

“Being aware that I’m not totally comfortable and accepting that,” said Dolge. “A lot of this is the positive self talk you can give yourself, because we are all there, we are all in a place that we are all together re-entering society in some way.”

Another part of getting back to normal is making sure you are comfortable doing what you are doing.

“We all have to do our own risk analysis and that doesn’t just mean risk of exposure, I think it’s also risk to our mental health,” said Jessica Knudsen, CEO of Clarity Child Guidance Center. “You don’t have to accept every in-person invite you’re getting, because you are probably going to get inundated with them.”

Read more like this on our Mental Wellness page:

About the Author:

Landon Lowe is a news producer for KSAT 12. He previously worked at the NBC/Fox affiliate in Baton Rouge, LA, where he was the senior news producer and political producer.