Top Expert Outlines 4 Steps to Mitigate Long-Term Complications

The coronavirus pandemic and its resulting social and economic disruptions have fueled a mental health crisis of unprecedented proportions. And many experts are concerned that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to take action, they say, to mitigate the long-term potential for mental-health symptoms, both at the individual and population-wide levels.

Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, reiterated that message in his keynote address last month at NAMICon, the mental health conference. He laid out four practical steps that will be critical to stemming the feared tsunami of mental-health problems. 

  1. Meet immediate needs for survival, including food, shelter, clothing, and economic subsistence.
  2. Practice healthy coping strategies, including taking breaks when necessary.
  3. Treat new or worsening symptoms of mental health challenges.
  4. Find ways to help others, which promotes a sense of self-efficacy and social connectedness.

Social Inequities Exacerbate Mental Health Challenges

Gordon pointed to the history of crisis research, which shows that mental health symptoms improve with time in most people. A significant minority, however, go on to have chronic or long-term symptoms. Social inequities exacerbate the differences between those who recover and those who don’t. Most vulnerable, he said, are those who experience the worst symptoms in the early phases.

That’s reason for concern, he said, given that as early in the pandemic as June 2020, nearly 40 percent of American adults reported experiencing mental-health symptoms. Anxiety and depression lead the pack. Depression, in particular, is a major risk factor for suicide, and experts are closely watching for any spike in suicide cases.

In “relatively good news,” Gordon said, suicide rates in 2020 did not appear to be affected by the pandemic. However, he noted that’s not the case in all populations. In young black males, for example, suicides increased sharply. 

“The adverse impacts of the pandemic are not felt equally throughout society, and that is the case for suicide as well.”

~ Joshua Gordon, director, National Institute of Mental Health

Free Programming for All Vermonters

COVID Support VT’s programming, which is free for all Vermonters, aims to reach those at risk for pandemic-related mental health challenges. COVID Support VT works in concert with the state’s existing mental-health system of community-based mental health agencies via Vermont Care Partners (VCP). Current programming encompasses many facets of mental-health support.

  • Free, confidential one-on-one sessions with support counselors (via Vermont’s 2-1-1 system, option #2). Counselors are specially trained to provide emotional support, wellness and self-care strategies, and connection to community resources.
  • COVID Support VT Support Counselors are now available via on-line chat on the website. Just click on the “Chat with Us” icon at the bottom right of your screen.
  • Free virtual workshops and support groups on topics such as re-entry anxiety, parenting, compassion fatigue, wellness, and job skills. BROWSE OUR WORKSHOPS HERE.
  • Community-partnered programs for BIPOC and New American/refugee communities.
  • A comprehensive website that serves as a gateway to authoritative, scientifically vetted resources and information. One-click translation of most everything into nearly 100 languages.
  • Expanded in-person community services by support counselors as reopening allows, including outreach to migrant farm workers and nursing home residents.
  • Assistance with applications for social services such as housing and food assistance.

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

Need to Talk?

Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.

In Crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support. 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at

One-click translation to 100 languages of most everything on the website, plus Multilingual Resources.

Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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