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April 9 AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Hall

Experts share information about COVID-19 and how to protect yourself

AARP will host a weekly live Coronavirus Information Tele-Town Hall right here on Thursdays at 1 p.m. ET. Please bookmark this page and join us each week for the latest information on the coronavirus by calling toll-free 855-274-9507.

April 9 Tele-Town Hall

Coronavirus: Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being

Experts at this week’s live Q&A event addressed questions related to protecting yourself and loved ones from the virus, staying healthy and reducing social isolation. They also responded to rising concerns about how stress, uncertainty, fear, and lack of control are negatively affecting people and contributing to depression. You can listen to a replay of the event below.

CORONAVIRUS  Tele-Town Hall April 9, 2020

Jason Young: Hello. I am AARP Senior Vice President Jason Young, and I want to welcome you to this important conversation today about the coronavirus and your well-being. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization. We have been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years, but recently our lives have changed in a surreal way.

In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing important information and resources to help you and all older adults and caregivers through this time. Today, we will talk with some of the best experts in the country who can share ideas and professional guidance to help you cope and stay connected with your loved ones during this anxious time.

I hope we can use this time today to support each other.

If you’ve participated in one of our Tele-Town Halls before, you know this is similar to a radio talk show. And you also know I’m not the regular host. Bill Walsh and Jean Setzfand, my colleagues here at AARP, have done a great job covering issues like how to manage your money, protect your health and care for your loved ones. There’s a great online archive at aarp.org/coronavirus.

We’ll miss Bill today but fortunately I have Jean here with me. And the best part, as always, is that you have the opportunity to ask questions live. If you would like to ask a question about social connection and how you’re feeling and coping during the pandemic, press *3 on your telephone and you’ll be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question and place you in a queue so that you can ask your question later, live. To ask your question, again, press *3. We’ll do our best today to find a balance between finding the light — there’s so much good and kindness and selflessness going on in the world today — and acknowledging that some of us, maybe most of us, are feeling the strain of some dark days and weeks right now.

Before we begin our conversation, we need to hear from you with a brief poll. So please take a moment to tell us, What activity are you doing most to maintain social connections during the coronavirus pandemic? On your telephone keypad, press 1 if you’re using phone calls; press 2 on your telephone keypad for video chats; press 3 on your telephone keypad for letters, emails or texts; press 4 on your telephone keypad for online games or apps. Lastly, press 5 on your telephone keypad for volunteering and helping others. So again, the poll question where you get to vote is, What activity are you doing most to maintain social connections with your family, your grandkids, your friends, your community during the coronavirus pandemic. On your keypad, press 1 for phone calls, 2 for video chats, 3 for letters, emails and texts, 4 for online games and apps, or 5 for volunteering and helping others.

 Hello, if you’re just joining us, I’m Jason Young with AARP and I want to welcome you to this important conversation about the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

We are talking with leading experts on mental health, emotional well-being and staying centered, and we’re taking your questions live today. To ask your question, please press *3 on your phone.

We have some incredible guests, some incredible experts, and I want to briefly introduce them. They are:

Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD. She’s the executive director of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide. That’s an acronym: PREVENTS,  the PREVENTS Task Force. We also have Dr. Altha Stewart, M.D., past president of the American Psychiatric Association, a psychiatrist in Memphis; and we have retired Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., who’s chair of the department of psychiatry at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, one of the frontline hospitals here in Washington, D.C. on coronavirus.

AARP is convening this Tele-Town Hall today to help you access information about the coronavirus. While we see an important role for AARP in providing information and advocacy related to the coronavirus, you should be aware that the best source of health and medical information is the CDC. That’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the federal government, and it can be reached at cdc.gov/coronavirus. Also, for more information and resources related to mental health services, the federal government has an arm called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, called SAMHSA, and that can be reached at samhsa.gov.

This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus. Everything that AARP has to offer about coronavirus is at aarp.org/coronavirus and this recording will be available 24 hours after today’s event. If you’d rather listen on the go, by the way, you can also hear past Tele-Town Halls on the AARP podcast AARP Take On Today.

Let’s get started. Today we’re talking with experts about how to stay safe, healthy and connected with loved ones during the global coronavirus pandemic. This is a trying time for many, and AARP is advocating tirelessly for you, for our members and for all people age 50 and older during the pandemic, as well as caregivers. And I want to call out a few ways that we’ve been fighting for you.

First, AARP fought to ensure that Americans whose primary source of income is Social Security will also receive those direct impact payments you’ve heard of — the up to $1,200 under the recent stimulus package that passed Congress and was signed by the president — and you won’t have to file any extra paperwork to receive these payments. This is an ongoing effort.

We have also asked for the same policy for people who receive payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs or other programs, like SSI. You might be one of those people who has recently lost your job. Or you’re feeling depressed or anxious about your job. And our experts can tackle that today, too, of course.

Or you may have heard the news this morning that the unemployment rate is now estimated to be about 12 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression. AARP has pushed for expanding unemployment insurance benefits, as well as paid sick leave and family leave for people who need to take time off to care for themselves or loved ones.

Maybe today you’re one of those people who can’t visit or can’t be visited in a care facility. AARP has stood up for the most vulnerable seniors by fighting to protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, helping them to stay connected with family members, and we’ve helped secure increased funding for critical programs like Meals on Wheels.

And while we’ve been hard at work in Washington, D.C., AARP has also had representatives across the country also fighting for you by working with state policymakers on a range of issues, things like visitation in nursing homes, telehealth, paid leave, preventing evictions, foreclosures, utility disconnects as people go through financial strain.

And so I just want to share a few examples. In New Jersey, AARP urged passage of a new law to extend temporary disability and family leave benefits. In Alaska and Michigan, we helped to push for expansions in telehealth. We’ll certainly talk more about that today. And in Florida, we fought for a new law to increase the capacity of the health care system, specifically allowing nurse practitioners to do more to treat patients.

So all of these are important victories for older Americans and for a health system under strain. But we would not have been able to make any of this possible without the phone calls, emails and actions from you. It’s the AARP members, the volunteers and the older adults all across the country who are making a difference. Thank you.

So let’s start with our first two guests. Our first guest, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., is executive director of a really important initiative right now. It’s the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide Task Force. Sometimes shorthanded as the PREVENTS Task Force.

She cofounded a program called Give an Hour, where volunteer mental health practitioners could offer mental health services to service members, veterans and others in need. And, she is just an incredible person with volunteerism in her heart and always fearless. Dr.  Van Dahlen, I want to thank you for being with us.

Barbara Van Dahlen: Thank you, Jason, for the opportunity and thank you to all the listeners and also to the two extraordinary women who I’m sharing this panel with. I know them both and have tremendous respect for them. I’ve also been very connected to AARP for years. I have the privilege of serving on the advisory committee for AARP Foundation’s program Connect2Affect, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later today.

Just to give a little bit about the work that I’m doing currently, as you explained so well, PREVENTS is focused on empowering our veterans and ending a national tragedy of suicide. And the way that we are going about doing that, we can’t focus only on our veterans to really address what is a national crisis in suicide for all demographics that we’ve seen an increase in. So our work is all of government, all of nation to knit together, coordinate and aspire really to prevent suicide across our country.

We’re doing that in a number of ways. One, we’re going to launch a massive public health campaign when we get on the other side of this crisis. And we’re doing a number of other things, but as our focus today is on this crisis: One of the things that PREVENTS is doing, we launched a program that I’ll talk more about and in some of my responses, but I think it’s very relevant, called hashtag MoreThanEverBefore.

And the focus of this campaign is to encourage everyone, everyone in our nation, to pay attention to their emotional health and well-being every day. More than ever before it’s critical because of the stress, the strain and the challenges that we are seeing as a result of this crisis, and we’ve engaged ambassadors. Second Lady Karen Pence filmed a video. I’m pushing out a video every day, giving people tips and information about how to monitor how you’re doing, ways that we can all reach out and support and provide care for those we love.

You can find out more about the #MoreThanEverBefore initiatives by visiting our Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/WeArePREVENTS, and we know that AARP is going to post all of that information so that folks can find us. But this conversation that we’re having today is so critical because the impact that this crisis will have, the long tail of this — yes, there’ll be economic consequences and, yes, people are dealing with physical consequences obviously during, but I know that the other two guests on this program, and I know AARP understands this, which is why you’re hosting this program, the long tail of this crisis will be the mental health consequences for many, many, many of our citizens. So thank you again for allowing me to be part of this. I’m really honored and excited to respond to questions that your listeners have.

Jason Young: Thank you. Let’s introduce our second guest today, who is warm and excited and hopeful and full of Southern hospitality: Dr. Altha Stewart, who’s based in Memphis, Tennessee. She’s the immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association and she was the first African American to lead that organization. And I remember, Dr. Stewart, I was so proud when that happened — I’ve known you for a long time — because we often say in communications that it’s not just the message, it’s the messenger.

And you are such a great messenger of all things mental health. You’re at the University of Tennessee at the Health Science Center there, where you’re associate professor and chief of social and community psychiatry. You’ve worked for more than three decades as the CEO of large public mental health systems. And, boy, you’ve been in some hot zones before that are in the news today — in Michigan, in Pennsylvania and in New York and obviously now in Memphis. So we welcome you today as well.

Altha Stewart: Well, thank you, Jason, for that very kind and warm introduction. I am so honored to be sharing today’s panel with the other two women. Certainly Barbara and I know each other, and Dr. Ritchie and I know each other and I’m pleased and really proud to be an AARP member myself and to see the beating the charge that while we may be apart, we are not alone in this crisis.

As you noted in the introduction, I have multiple roles in my work at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, one of which is senior associate dean for community health engagement, which means that right now in the midst of this crisis in my town, we are working very hard to assure that especially underserved and underrepresented racial and minority communities are getting access to testing and getting good medical advice on handling themselves in the midst of this crisis, are getting the right messages about why it is so important to self-isolate and be mindful of social distancing, but also being mindful of our emotional health and well-being.

In my other role, I run a program called the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth, where I frequently encounter grandparents, older relatives who are now primary caregivers, and I’m sure in the AARP membership, there are people who fit that category who are now facing this crisis, much like they faced other crises that they’ve gotten through, but now with the extra need to care for young children, teenage children, young adult children who are now living with them.

And so I think that this is a wonderful opportunity to share some real important information for the population that I hope is listening, to help them manage this crisis and maintain their emotional health and well-being.

And I do come with a dose of Southern hospitality, so I warn everybody now, if I lapse into some Southern drawl, just understand that’s just me.

Jason Young: We’ll bear with you.

So, Dr. Van Dahlen, in most states, we are seeing that folks are several weeks into stay-at-home orders. I read the other day that about 90 percent of Americans are in their homes.

And so while physical distancing is a critical tool to slow the spread of coronavirus, it has changed our routines and how we connect with loved ones. And many people have increased stress or anxiety during this time. Many of the folks on this call are probably grandparents. So what can someone do to monitor their own state and cope with this new reality?

Barbara Van Dahlen: That’s such an excellent question. And one that I think that we can all relate to. We are all experiencing significant changes, disruptions in our lives, and as a result, we’re all experiencing stress. And I think one of the things that we’re seeing and hearing is that this is changing over time, different emotions, different experiences, that we might have after the first week. Then comes the second weekend and different things that we hear in the news, whether our city might be one of the hot spots, et cetera.

So the first thing that is really, really important for all of us to understand is that the anxiety, the fears, the anger, the boredom I hear from people about, their rent, they’re trying to figure out what to do during this time where they’re limited. All of these feelings are very normal. They’re very human. We humans sometimes get hard on ourselves, where we get frustrated or irritated with ourselves and can be harsh or label ourselves in ways that is more critical. So I remind people, these feelings are very understandable, very normal. That’s really important.

Second, tune in to how you’re feeling. Every day. This is what our #MoreThanEverBefore campaign is all about. More than ever before, we have to pay attention to our emotional health and well-being. It is equally as important as washing our hands and maintaining physical distance.

We do that by just literally tuning into yourself. We typically are pretty good at knowing, you know, ‘Oh, gee, I’m crankier than usual,’ or ‘I’m angrier this afternoon than I was in the morning. What’s happening? What’s going on?’ Or, ‘I’m sad.’ The other day I was talking to my daughter about a story in the news that I had heard that was sad, but I started to cry in a way that was surprising to me and alerted me that, Wow, there are a lot of feelings that are right at the surface that are ready to sort of brim and bubble over.

So, encouraging people to tune into themselves, encouraging people to share how they’re doing with loved ones. It may be that you’re sharing with somebody that you’re sharing your home with right now; it could be a caretaker, it could be a family member, it could be by text, it could be by phone.

Sharing is such an important part of being connected. It’s such a healthy thing that we do for each other, with each other, and it’s bidirectional. So you may share with a grandson or a granddaughter by telling them how you’re doing; it’s equally valuable for them both to hear that and to turn around and share with you how they’re doing. So this is really a nice time to be supportive to others and to receive support since it helps us remember that we are not alone.

Another thing that we can do when we’re struggling with this sense of — a feeling, you know, that we’re either anxious or worried or fearful— is go to what you know is helpful to you. That might be reading, it might be music, it could be prayer. Again, reaching out to people. It could be watching a favorite movie that makes you laugh. So knowing what works for you, sharing what works for you with others, connecting with people through these other mechanisms.

One of the things that I have seen in our own neighborhood that I love: I’ll be taking our dog out — actually, the puppy, so that’s a handful just in and of itself, but I’ll take her out. And you know, everybody’s maintaining their distance, they’re sitting on their porches, but we nod, we smile. There’s warmth right now available for people, but if we don’t reach for it, we may not feel it. So, reaching out through other tools, other mechanisms, and coming back to where I began, which is make sure that you tune into yourself, and if others are sharing with you that they’re a little concerned, you seem sadder, have that conversation about why you might be feeling that or why you might be worrying so you can hear a heavy focus on making sure you don’t isolate yourself in yourself.

We may be physically isolated. We may be removed from people that we care about, but we do not need to be socially or emotionally disconnected during this time.

Jason Young: You know, I think that’s great advice. And you mentioned at your introduction, your prior work on AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect campaign. And so I just want to share that with our callers.

There’s something called Connect2Affect and it’s a platform that features resources. There’s a quiz that you can take ,a self-assessment, and it asks questions that really get at your risk for being isolated and feeling lonely, feeling disconnected, and then finding some practical ways. I’ve done the assessment myself, you can do it and then get practical ways to reconnect with your community, including some virtual volunteer and other things that you might want to consider, since we know the world has changed.

Dr. Stewart, I want to turn to you for a second question. One of the tips we’ve seen for managing stress is to remain physically active, go out on that dog walk. So why is this critical and what tips do you offer when some of our favorite facilities, community centers, senior centers and so on, are closed.

Altha Stewart: Well, first, I want to echo something that Dr. Van Dahlen said, that we need to be mindful of the fact that we’re having this conversation about our emotional well-being, because  I’m hearing from people that they feel like they’re losing their mind because they’re anxious or fearful or worried all the time. It is okay to be worried. These are very real things to worry about and that is not a sign that you are quote “losing it,” as someone asked me. So I want to build on that.

And I think one of the reasons that we’re advising people to become physically active, even if they’ve not been before, is if there are things that our body does when we are physically active that support, improve a more positive emotional well-being. Everyone’s heard of endorphins and all those other things that really lift your spirits. They’re like the body’s natural antidepressant.

When you move, when you’re physically active, you generate certain things in your body that really do help you to feel better and allow you, if you’ve not been physically active, for example, taking a walk. If you can’t go outside because of where you live or something, or your mobility is limited, take a walk in your house. You know, if you’ve got a hallway or a big room, walk the perimeter of that. Just go round four or five times, making sure that you’re breathing and moving; being safe, of course. And, if you have mobility issues, we always encourage that you run this by your doctor to make sure it’s okay, but you can walk in your house ;if you’ve got steps and you can go outside, two or three steps to get onto your front porch, going up and down them a few times; again, safe, under a doctor’s okay. But that allows you to be physically active and keeps you thinking and moving in ways that support a better, overall health and well-being.

Some of the other things that we encourage people to do have to do with paying attention when you’re sitting for a long time. Particularly those of us who are working at home in front of our computers: Take breaks for a stretch, for deep breathing, for rotating your ankles, much like we do to prevent a deep vein thrombosis on a long airplane trip.

Rotate your ankles, go back and forth with your leg and your foot. Do spins on your arms to get them moving and loosen them up. Do shoulder stretches. These are things that are easy to do, most people can do them and you don’t have to worry about you’re missing your time at the gym if that was one of your normal routines. It’s also very good for people in our age group, the over-60 crowd, that we understand that if we are limited in our capability because of arthritis or ambulatory problems or anything like that, that we can do a lot of these things while we’re seated comfortably in a chair and still get maximum benefit from them.

And that whole social interaction, you know, we may have to be apart, but we don’t have to be socially isolated. Talking and engaging with people and maybe doing shared steps with a friend or a relative who’s also limited in what they can do. It’s just a way of socializing and getting your physical activity in at the same time.

Jason Young: Well, I love that idea. I know some people are going back online and looking at some Denise Austin videos that we did a couple years ago, that you can do right in your house, right in your apartment. And, I know Jane Fonda’s been out repromoting some old videos of hers; lots of fun, but good advice. I also had a friend who quipped the other day — Dr. Stewart, you’ll like this: He said he wasn’t sure where he was going for Easter, the living room or the bedroom.

Altha Stewart:  And so, taking a trip. That’s the point. Yes. Yep.

Jason Young: Taking a trip.

Altha Stewart: Whatever you have available, use that to be physically active.

Jason Young: Right, right at home. So, Dr. Van Dahlen, this is a difficult topic to discuss, and you actually have one of the most difficult jobs in the country, working on veteran suicide, so I know that you think about people who lose their loved ones. But this is a time when we hear from people who lose their loved ones for whatever reason. Maybe it’s COVID-19 but maybe it’s some other condition and they can’t be with their family during the final days or in a funeral setting, and they subsequently can’t mourn in the way that feels right to them, and that makes a terrible situation even worse.

So what can someone do to cope if somebody is experiencing a loss? And do you have any resources.

Barbara Van Dahlen: Jason, that’s a such an important question right now. It is heartbreaking, the stories that we’re hearing, just heartbreaking. And, again, I go back to — Altha and I, in a way, we’re such a great tag team because we keep emphasizing all of these strong feelings that people are having are absolutely understandable and normal during this very abnormal time in our nation. Across our nation and around the world.

These, these losses are occurring, as you said, sometimes because of COVID-19, sometimes because of other reasons, but it means then that the family cannot get together. We have concerns. I have concerns. I know other mental health professionals have concerns about the long-term impact that some of these losses will have.

There’s a term that we in the mental health field use; it’s called complicated bereavement. And what that means is that we humans when we lose someone, we go through a process of grieving, but if something interferes with our ability to grieve as we would normally grieve, it can leave some lasting challenges, can actually interfere with the emotional health and well-being of the person who’s needing to grieve.

So one of the things I want to say is, for those listening who may be or have experienced this, or who might experience this during this time, make sure that you, again, pay attention to, talk to people who you love about this, so if you would feel that, okay, I’m still feeling this overwhelming sadness and despair, loss, pain, longer than you would feel — not than someone else would feel makes sense for you, but you would feel, please talk to folks. So this may be months down the road, I’m saying this may have a long-term consequence.

So 1 is recognizing that; 2 is understanding that as we are dealing with this physical isolation, people are already being incredibly innovative about how they can remember loved ones, who they are losing during this time, and using, whether it’s platforms that allow videos, chats. I’ve heard from people who are getting together to remember a loved one, who are sharing. They’re crying together. They’re creating other opportunities for future memorials that they plan to have, so they’re gathering pictures and they’re journaling about the individual so that they allow themselves to go through the process that is very healthy and very important. Memories, remembering, allowing ourselves to fully be sad.

You know, sometimes people use the traditions that we establish around funerals and burials and memorials, to let themselves go and be sad and cry. You may not have that option now that there may not be those formal traditions. And so allowing yourself to cry, and that may mean actually intentionally pulling out pictures or listening to music or watching things that helps stimulate the memories of the person that you’re grieving.

It will be challenging during this time, but it is very important that we do all that we can to work with our own physical limitations, engage others, use the tools we have, and it’s always healthy. It helps us so much when we reach out to others. So if you’re dealing with a loss and there’s someone in your family or community that shares that loss, by you reaching out and offering opportunity to talk, to share, to support one another, that’s good for us, too.

Jason Young: Yeah. Wow. That’s a tough one. Dr. Stewart, mental health care, you know, has always had some challenges in this country and I’m curious if coronavirus has brought to the surface some of those existing challenges and because we want to empower people who are listening in today, maybe some ideas about what they can do in the face of those challenges.

Altha Stewart: Well, again, that’s an excellent question and I’m so happy that you’ve asked it. One of the problems separate from the original discussion we had about coping in this stressful time, this is a topic I think that bears some considerable conversation because the system, the mental health treatment system was already challenged, prior to the virus, the pandemic. And now in the face of not being able to access direct face-to-face care, having to rely more on technology to conduct our sessions, to provide support and services, to maintain contact — therapeutic, health care provider treatment contact with people — is an even bigger challenge for an already strained and stressed-out system.

One of the things I think that we should all be mindful of is it’s persons with mental illness suffer not only illness, but the stigma associated with the illness, and in times where expressing concern and fear may be viewed by people who know them or who care about them as a manifestation of their illness as opposed to the real world fear that we are all feeling anxious and stressed about, we have to help family members, loved ones, caregivers understand that people with mental illness are responding in many of the same ways as everyone else in society to the real challenges that we are facing today around the unknown, about not being able to control things, about this 24-hour news cycle that can be in and of itself anxiety provoking.

And so what I hope comes out of this crisis, this unfortunate and tragic crisis, for people with mental illness is that people will have a better understanding, the general public will have a better understanding of their needs, have a more likely capability to want to reach out and provide support and comfort since many of the traditional support and service systems are really not able to serve them in the same way.

And we’ll be able to assure people with mental illness who may be living in their own homes, who may be living in residential programs and supported housing, who may be with family members who are being tested and stressed because of their own challenges with this, that it will help people become more empathetic around some of their concerns and some of their support and service needs.

I also think that because this is a stigmatized disorder, medical disorder, that we’re going to have to deal during this crisis with some of that stigma that prevents people from coming out, from understanding the importance, based on their vulnerability, because many of the people with mental illness have underlying medical conditions that may or may not be getting treated.

So people who have diabetes, hypertension, all of the underlying conditions that we talk about in people who are vulnerable, especially to this virus, we have to be mindful that in those people who are mentally ill, those of us who are caring for them and care about them, have to make sure that they are doing the same kinds of public health guidance things that we’re asking other people to do: maintaining social distance, wearing masks in public. All of those things have to be encouraged in people with mental illness who may not be getting the message in the same way others are about the importance of this stuff. And those of us who care for them and care about them need to help them understand that.

We have to be mindful of the fact that many people with mental illness remain homeless, incarcerated or otherwise estranged from society. And this time more than ever, those who do volunteer work out of a church or a nonprofit need to be mindful of the needs of this particular group of people and ask them things: Do you need anything? Are you taking your medicine? Can you get to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription?

This is the time when I think we all have to extend ourselves a little more because this is a particular group of people who always need our help and support and who need it now more than ever.

Jason Young: Well, that’s a great time to remind our listeners today that if you have a question that you’d like to ask Dr. Stewart or Dr. Van Dahlen, you can press *3 on your phone and that will put you into the queue. We’re getting ready to take questions. Dr. Stewart, your last comments remind me that telehealth services are increasingly available. Some group therapy and support groups are actually going online, and so that might be a good resource to check out. And I want to remind people about the AARP Foundation’s tool, Connect2Affect.org.

We’re now going to take your questions and Dr. Van Dahlen and Dr. Stewart will answer them. Press *3 at any time on your phone keypad in order to be connected with AARP staff. You can share your question and be put in the queue. We have on the line with us as well my colleague Jean Setzfand, AARP senior vice president of programs. Jean is going to be the organizer of the call-in portion and help facilitate your calls. So I just want to welcome Jean back to our Tele-Town Hall. Hi, Jean.

Jean Setzfand: I am delighted to be here with you today.

Jason Young: So, Jean, I think this is an incredibly important conversation that you and your team have lined up for today. And, of course, we’re going to take our callers’ calls. I also want to remind people that in just a moment we’ll have another guest expert join us, a woman who is going to totally impress you after her 24 years in uniform and just extensive knowledge of both military and veterans mental health care and then the broader, mental health system at large, and will be very helpful to answering your questions. For right now, though, we’re going to take questions for Dr. Stewart and Dr. Van Dahlen. Jean, do you have any questions in the queue at this time?

Jean Setzfand: We do we have quite a few calls, the first one coming from Lorraine of New York.

Lorraine:  Yes, hello. I have very bad panic attacks and I wanted to know, is there anywhere we could call, or anyone that can help us when it gets really, really bad. I can’t seem to get myself centered again. And is there a number that we could call, somebody we could talk to when these things happen?

Jason Young: Lorraine, I’m so sorry to hear you’re experiencing that. And of course you’re in New York, in the middle of it all. Dr. Stewart, do you have any advice for how Lorraine might approach her situation?

Altha Stewart: Yes. And, Lorraine, I too am sorry that this has resulted in you having additional problems on top of this. So if you have a current therapist, I would say first, let’s check in with that person. if you were not seeing someone prior to this and so don’t have a connection to anyone in the mental health treatment community, New York has a very extensive network of hotlines and crisis lines, mental health crisis lines. I don’t know the actual dial direct or website to look into but if you search for whatever your local phone directory can provide, if you search for mental health crisis line or crisis text line or something like that, you should come up with the names and contact information for your local crisis hotline.

There is also a national, mental health crisis line and I’m so sorry I don’t have that information available with me, but I’m sure before the end of the call, someone can provide that or it can be provided, through your AARP resources, Jason.

Jason Young: Absolutely. And I want to share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And that lifeline is available 24-7. It is free and confidential support for people in distress, a prevention crisis, that sort of thing, or your loved ones. And the number is 800-273-TALK. That’s 800-273-8255.

Altha Stewart: The other thing I would say to the caller is, if you have a friend or loved one who you have shared this panic attack problem with, I would ask that you speak with them and stay in good contact with them because you do need someone. And while you’re reaching out for the hotlines and the crisis lines, you do need someone who knows that they need to check on you, they need to check in with you. They need to call, and they should expect you to call them because we don’t want you isolated in the midst of having these panic attacks and in the midst of a very real situation.

Also, I would advise that you do not watch the news a lot. That tends to trigger and make people more anxious. And right now, things that you need to do to stay calm are the things I’m sure you already know about in terms of relaxation and deep breathing, and if you meditate, this is the time to really pull in all of those areas that you can use to help you manage the attacks until you can get to someone professionally for help. But I wish you the best of luck through this.

Jason Young: Thank you, Dr. Stewart. Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: Our next caller is Debra, calling in from Virginia.

Jason Young: Debra, go ahead.

Debra: Yes. I just had a question that this AARP Foundation Connect2Affect may answer, but there does seem to be a lot of telemedicine going on and has been even before this. But what about if you do not have a connection with a psychiatrist or a counselor for mental health issues like depression and anxiety and, are services offered that can be done from home? I’m 66, I really don’t want to have to go anywhere. I’m just wondering if some of that information from that website or … I’m wondering about an online thing or some way to connect and actually talk to somebody.

Jason Young: Sure, Debra, we’ll get you an answer. I can also tell you to check out — your primary care can often steer you to the right kind of help and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that I mentioned if you really are having that kind of, those feelings right now offers online chat as well. Dr. Van Dahlen, would you have any thoughts for Debra?

Barbara Van Dahlen: Yes. And Debra, that’s a great, it’s a great question. And many of the things that Altha was suggesting for Lorraine apply here as well, that your county website should have, your state and county website should also have resources that are local that may be offering telehealth. I know, for example, the VA, Department of Veterans Affairs, much of their mental health care is now shifted to telehealth care because like you, we don’t want to be out. We want to be doing what we’re supposed to do, which is staying at home. If you have a 211 effort in your community, 211 is another resource that often has local organizations, local services that deliver mental health care. There are a number now of online and mobile app companies that are delivering telehealth, and mobile applications. And one of the things that — I know that Dr. Ritchie is going to talk about this in the next hour but for the next segment, but just to sort of let folks know, we know that these new applications are actually very effective and very helpful.

So Jason mentioned, the text function and we know that texting with a therapist, with a counselor is helpful, as is the telehealth where you’re actually able to see each other. And so some of these online, obviously do your research or ask other folks, look at the reviews, but they’re out there and some of them are quite reputable. There’s one that Michael Phelps is a spokesperson for. I know Michael, and I know the work, that he cares deeply about this. So, I would say, you know, 211, your state and county websites should have good references, good resources. SAMHSA is a government agency that Jason mentioned, and they will also have ways to help you find local services. On our Facebook page we will have resources as well. I know AARP will as well. So hopefully through all of that, you’ll be able to get some good help in identifying places to try, because they’re out there and they’re effective.

Altha Stewart: If I could, I might, my great staff has forwarded me some of the numbers that I would like to share, if that’s okay, so the people have a wide range of options for how to access help depending on where they are. There is a national Disaster Distress Line that has been created and that number is 800-985-5990. 800-985-5900. There was also the NAMI help in a crisis line, where you can actually text the letters N-A-M-I to 741741. NAMI has a HelpLine, and that number is (800) 950-6264, just so that people have options if they don’t have like the 211 or don’t have a vast resource in their local areas. These are opportunities and options for people to at least call and speak with someone and get guidance if needed.

Jason Young: Thank you, Dr. Stewart. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If you have not heard of them before, they’re a truly outstanding group and they’re in many communities all across the country.

Before we move on, Dr. Van Dahlen, I understand that you have to run to an important White House meeting and so I want to give you an opportunity to share any closing thoughts before you have to get off to your important work.

Barbara Van Dahlen: Oh, well, Jason, thank you. I actually don’t need to leave quite yet. I’m happy to stay. I do have to get on a White House call at about 10 after the hour. So I’m happy to wrap up now or stay on, if that makes sense. Either way.

Jason Young: Well, let me share the poll results then from the top of the call. We asked you to tell us how you were staying in touch with your network during this trying time. And 59 percent of you said that phone calls are the thing that you are doing to maintain your social connections; 22 percent of you selected, letters, emails and texts. So that’s great that people are using both good old-fashioned and new technology to stay in touch.

I also want to share AARP Community Connections. This is a new platform that we have. Sometimes hearing a friendly voice can help in challenging times. This is not mental health care. These are volunteers available at AARP Community Connections. It’s a free service for all adults 18 and older. It has trained volunteers and they are standing by to provide a friendly call and to say hello.

If you would like to speak to someone, they are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. That’s Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 Eastern, and they’re at 888-281-0145. Leave us your information and our volunteers will get back in touch with you. And if you prefer, you can also set up a recurring call, a check-in call, say every Wednesday at 2 p.m. for a check-in. And so this is, again, a free service, regardless of whether you’re an AARP member or not. We do have some bilingual capabilities as well, so we can offer those services in Spanish. And one more time, that phone number is (888) 281-0145.

Before we say goodbye to Dr. Van Dahlen, I want to bring in one of her colleagues, also very knowledgeable of veterans and military, mental health issues: Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D.; she’s a psychiatrist, chair of the department of psychiatry at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

And I have to tell you, I have known Cam for a long time and, she is tough as nails, knows her stuff and spent 24 years in uniform. She is on the frontlines now, thinking about the mental health intersections with infectious disease like coronavirus. She retired from the U.S. Army in 2010 but had spent her final five years in uniform as the top advocate for mental health within the Office of the Army Surgeon General.

So, Dr. Ritchie, welcome to you today.

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: It’s a pleasure to be here. As you said, we are very much on the frontlines and that is both very exciting — I feel like I’ve trained all my life to do this. I’ve always had an interest in the intersection between infectious disease and mental health. And it’s also obviously quite scary as our hospital, as other hospitals, become filled with COVID patients.

I’m doing quite a bit of work with the staff here, trying to help them manage anxiety, and like  everybody else, I do best myself when I’m focused and can do my job but wake up at 2 in the morning and have gone, Oh, no, we’re all going to die. And then I realized, well, yes, we are all going to die. That’s part of the human condition.

But in the meantime, you need to do your job and you need to do it well, and that helps me focus. So, for whatever it’s worth to the group.

Jason Young: Well, I’m so glad that you’re here. You know, we’ve seen the surge in interest in using telehealth in this crisis. And I understand that the Veterans Health Administration is a real leader in the use of telehealth, including tele mental health. And, so I know you’re no longer with the VA, but you are very knowledgeable of that world and can you explain, and obviously telehealth is also now part of Medicare, but can you explain how does that work? How is it used?

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: Let me go back a little bit because I actually first used telehealth when I was deployed in Somalia back in the early ’90s, so it has actually had a very long use in the military because, for example, if you’re at sea on a ship, you may not have a specialist there, but you can call back. Or in the early days it would take photographs, say of a strange rash, and send them back to Walter Reed and then do telehealth. In the VA, it has progressed greatly. Many veterans live in rural areas, and so they’ve really perfected the technology, but the technology has also gotten better.

One of the things or the ways that it was an advantage for the VA is that the practitioners did not need to have the same medical license as the patients, of states. In other words, in the rest of the States, if you were seeing a patient in Maryland and you were in D.C., you had to have a Maryland medical license. Now, in the last two weeks, we’ve just seen incredible advances, both with technology and also with not having to have those rules about the medical licenses.

So now I do on my phone, I do video to talk to patients on their phone, by video. Now, sometimes they don’t know how to do that, and then we do an old-fashioned phone call. But many people find that seeing their doctor’s face is very reassuring, just remembering that somethings are the same. So I would recommend video technology if you can, but the phone call, if you can’t. Don’t ask me though about particular video technologies because everybody is doing it slightly differently, so if I told you what I was doing it probably wouldn’t transmit very well.

Jason Young: Sure. Well, you know, I’m interested to dig in a little bit further because both you and Dr. Van Dahlen have provided just extraordinary care and leadership for members of the armed services.

And of course, AARP is a very large membership organization and so, sort of by accident, we just happen to have lots and lots of members who are retired military, and so concerns of the  troops, concerns of veterans are always concerns of AARP’s. And so I want to go back to Dr. Van Dahlen before we have to let you go.

You know, it occurs to me, Dr. Van Dahlen, that the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are becoming increasingly known — fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell — where sometimes psychological effects are a little more invisible. And I just wondered if you’d give us  some parting wisdom about how to approach that.

Barbara Van Dahlen: Thank you, Jason, and thank you for allowing me to, to stay on a little while. This is such an important conversation and I so appreciate AARP holding this forum and allowing us to have the chance to share.

So you’re absolutely right that we don’t always recognize the impact, the effects of the stress, the strain, what’s happening to us, while it’s happening, and this is something that is exactly at the heart and soul of our #MoreThanEverBefore campaign. It really is trying to get everyone to pay attention every day. Every day tune in that you recognize — and we all continue to learn our entire lives how we are affected by what happens to us, whether it’s coming from the outside, whether it’s coming from our own thoughts.

You know, I’m thinking back to Lorraine, the caller, and her distress and the panic attacks, which is so, it makes me so sad for her. And it’s something we all are very close to, that anxiety and that fear. And so just as a connection to that, you know, one of the things that — Lorraine  is aware, she understands that when she’s having a panic attack, what that looks like, what it feels like, and good for her because that’s the beginning of being able to respond to it.

Other people who maybe have never experienced a panic attack may not understand when they feel tightness in their chest, when they’re having shortness of breath, when their thoughts are racing. They may be confused and not be sure, what is this? Is, am I having a heart attack? Is this a sign of COVID-19? And, again, totally normal that we would wonder about that. And I would encourage anyone, obviously, who’s having those symptoms to, in fact, call, reach out to your doctor, your primary care doctor and have that conversation. But sometimes, that’s anxiety; sometimes that’s the beginning of what could turn into a full-blown panic attack. So if you haven’t had anxiety to this level before, it may not be familiar what it looks like.

Other things that we might notice, we might have trouble sleeping and if we’re already somebody who maybe isn’t the best, sleep is not always easy for us, it might get exacerbated and you might be trying to figure out, Why am I having more trouble than usual falling asleep? Or, Why am I waking up? Could very well be that it’s the stress, it’s the anxiety, it’s the worry, it’s the sadness.

And so those are times then to look at in our emotional well-being toolbox: What do we rely on?

I get up if I’m having trouble sleeping. I’ll get up. I’ll try to write some thoughts down to kind of get it out of my head, get it on to paper. Sometimes that allows me to go back to sleep. My husband, he gets up, he’ll go read, he’ll read one of his books that he’s reading, and that helps put him back to sleep.

So think about what works for you, if that’s the way you see it.

Another thing that I’ve been hearing a lot is people feel very lethargic, very heavy — physically heavy, it’s hard to move. I’d go back to Altha’s great recommendation to try to move. That’s a great antidote. Our body creates wonderful chemicals that help us when we are moving, those great endorphins. So, trying to move.

Another sort of tool that’s available to all of us really is laughter. When we laugh, it releases great, great, again, great chemicals in our brains. Similarly, sometimes a good cry is helpful to us. Babies, you know, they cry and they cry and they cry. There’s something going on beyond just that they’re expressing their distress, their frustration. There is something very appropriate and important about that valve.

So you may feel heavy, you may have difficulty concentrating. You may be more irritable and agitated. And you may notice that you’re not really taking a whole, you know, taking good care of yourself in the way you normally would. And that’s really, really important not to let that slide. So make sure you stay on your routine. You know, get up at the time you get up. Make sure you’re showering, that you’re eating good food, healthy food at normal times during the day that you normally would.

Definitely reach out to those in your community, in your family. Have those real conversations, try to get beyond the one-word answer, especially if you’re feeling tight or upset or distressed. Push yourself to do more, to express more, as much as you can. Again, remember you might be opening the door for someone else who needs to talk to you. And by doing that, you help each other.

I do need to head off now to this next important call. It is, in fact, a statement of the importance of this topic. So thank you, AARP for the time. I want to just give a shout-out to our website and our Facebook page so people can learn more about us. Our Facebook is www.facebook.com/WeArePREVENTS. Our website is www.va.gov/PREVENTS. I hope that people who are on Facebook, who like to Twitter — I do Twitter more than I do Facebook, but we’re on both — it’s hashtag MoreThanEverBefore.

We must pay attention to our emotional health and well-being. We are not alone. We are in this together. We will get through this together. Thank you all for joining. Thank you to my dear friends Altha and am for being part of this. Thank you again to AARP.

Jason Young: Thank you, Dr. Van Dahlen and for your public service, and good luck with your meeting. I would like to remind our callers to press *3 if you would like to ask a question of either Dr. Stewart or Dr. Ritchie.

And, let’s move to a caller. Jean, who do we have?

Jean Setzfand: We have Aaron from D.C.

Jason Young: Aaron, go ahead.

Aaron: Yeah. Yes. Hello? my name is Aaron. I’m a veteran, senior veteran here, aging solo in the D.C. area, and I suffer from PTSD, severe depression and suicide ideation. But I’m in treatment. My question is with the new coronavirus, and I don’t know if this is how I feel, but how it was coronavirus — I’m trying not to let it be a trigger for my other PTSD symptoms. And also I’m trying to distinguish because social isolation is a part of my way of life for PTSD, and to distinguish between the difference between PTSD, social isolation, not letting it become social distancing, or maybe it’s the other way around, not letting social distancing become social isolation. So I was wondering what advice, you may have for that.

Jason Young: Well, Aaron, first, I want to thank you for your service to the country. Dr. Ritchie, you know these issues. What are your thoughts?

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: I do, and I also thank you and all the veterans out there for their service. I think that’s a very good question and one of the ways I would start is with the person you’re in therapy with now. As I mentioned before, the VA has an extensive telemedicine. Some veterans like to go to the VA, some people want to go elsewhere, but to reach out telephonically.

There’s also a number of support groups. A while back they reduced the number of support groups at the VA but they’ve started them up again and, excuse me, they started up in general. And if you can’t find a support group, then start a support group yourself. Sometimes people sit back and think somebody else is going to do it. And of course we’ve overwhelmed you with all the resources out there. And maybe, maybe as a result of the call, we could find out who are the veterans and see who wanted to do a support group.

Sir, what time were you in service? Often helps people of the same war, the same era, they often connect to each other.

Jason Young: Yeah, unfortunately, we have lost connectivity with Aaron, so he can’t follow up. But, but let’s do move on to another caller. Jean, who else do we have?

Jean Setzfand: We have Cornelius from Louisiana. 

Jason Young: Go ahead, Cornelia.

Cornelius: Hello. My name is Cornelius from Alexandria, Louisiana, and we are having a little problem with — I’m a Korean war vet so I salute that veteran and the veteran doctor, Dr. Ritchie, and it’s nice to have you on Dr. Stewart from the University of Tennessee. I went to Louisiana Tech, old Bulldogs, and that’s where Terry Bradshaw was from. But my question, being African American, I’m almost 90 years old, and with the stuff that’s going around here in Louisiana and all over the country and all over the world, African Americans need a lot of mental health and stuff. So what would we need to do as African Americans, and I would appreciate that. I’ll take my answer off the air. Thank you.

Jason Young: Thank you, Cornelius. Sorry, I got your name wrong. Dr. Stewart, thoughts for Cornelius in Louisiana?

Altha Stewart: Well, thank you, Cornelius for that question. Specific to the coronavirus, what we are seeing in the early data is that much like one would expect if you follow the science and information about disparities in health for people, in minority and underserved populations like African Americans, we are seeing a similar difference in its impact and in the outcome of what is being done to support these folks. It’s early, still in the, in the sort of cycle of the virus, but so far, there was lots and lots and lots of information surrounding that we’ve got to pay attention, we’ve got to make sure we get the message right about what people should be doing, the myths and things that are going around on the internet.

I know somebody who is 90 years old probably doesn’t listen to a lot of that mess, as my granddaddy used to call it, but there are myths going around and sayings about, that the coronavirus won’t affect black people, that it simply does not affect them. That is untrue. We can see by the numbers of people in New York and certainly now in Louisiana, that they are affected at rates that are very out of proportion to the number of people who are black who live in those settings.

And so, seeking mental health care can be a challenge when you are African American, especially if you are looking for a therapist who is also African American; there’s just not a lot of us out there. There may be 4,000 black psychiatrists, maybe a few thousand more black psychologists, more black social workers than either of the other two.

But the important thing is that if you feel like you need that kind of help, if you want therapy, if you feel like you need therapy, if today’s circumstances make you believe that you need help from someone who is professionally trained to help you deal with the things you’re struggling with, find that help. We gave some numbers earlier. You can identify resources in your local area that may be appropriate for what you need help with. But the important thing is that you recognize that this could be a problem and that you want to get help for it. And I commend you for that. And for living to be 90 years old, congratulations.

Jason Young: Absolutely. Seeking help is a sign of strength, as we always say.

Jean, do we have other callers? Who’s next?

Jean Setzfand: Absolutely. So we have Ruth from a 601 area code.

Jason Young: Ruth, is that New Jersey?

Ruth: No, it’s Mississippi.

Jason Young: Oh, goodness. My family’s home state. Shame on me. I don’t call enough. Go ahead, Ruth.

Ruth: My name is Ruth and I have a question relating to caregivers who might be experiencing burnout. They normally have some risks. This where they will send their individual to an adult day care facility and they’re there normally for about four to five hours, but now we don’t have that, they’ve been shut down. What specific suggestions do you have for caregivers to prevent them from doing abuse to their care recipient?

Jason Young: Caregiving is one of the toughest jobs in ordinary times. Dr. Stewart, what are your thoughts.

Altha Stewart: Well, unfortunately, I have some personal experience with being a caregiver over a period of time. And I think, Ruth, what you are describing is, is really a very difficult situation, as Jason said, in the best of times.

Some of the things that come to mind that may be helpful are, there are people who can still provide in-home care with the right precautions and everything. They may be difficult to find these days, but many of the home health agencies are continuing to try to be supportive, recognizing that family members especially who are primary caregivers, really do still need respite.

You may have to seek resources through a church group or a nonprofit that does this or family who are comfortable and are not themselves likely to expose or be exposed, but it really does depend on your ability to mobilize those resources. And it’s tough when you’re the caregiver trying to find your own respite. I understand that, and I feel for you. I’m just north of you in Tennessee, so I feel for you about that because there are limited resources on a good day and this is really stretching the availability of people who can provide the level of care that you want for your loved one. And the importance of recognizing that abuse is often the result when we don’t have good care is also an important one.

I don’t have any more specific advice for you at this point. Reach out into your network, if you have church members who do this and might be willing to help. It means having all of the right equipment, protective equipment. It means maintaining, as best you can, the public health guidelines. And it also means coordinating your loved one’s care with their doctor to assure if there are any additional steps that need to be taken, if those are also built into whatever you can arrange.

Jason Young: Dr. Ritchie, I’m curious. Many military spouses and parents are also caregivers and do you have a perspective on Ruth’s question?

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: I do have a perspective. It’s not a reassuring one. What we do know from other pandemics, like SARS is, A. that pandemic passes, and that’s good news, but that there is a lingering after-effect because of the unemployment and the hospitality shutdowns and so the family has been cooped up together. And so usually what we see over time is more domestic violence, abuse, irritability.

I think being aware of that and doing all the things that Dr. Stewart suggests is helpful to anticipate it. I also wanted to say a word about another population, which is of great concern to us, which is our homeless population who are not getting the support services they need and may become suicidal or have previous severe mental illnesses.

And of course there’s a number of populations — we’ve mentioned briefly those incarcerated, those in nursing homes who are stuck. So this is going to be an issue. The more you can do to reach out and help other people, probably the better you’ll feel. That’s what usually gets people through this, if you can help somebody else.

Jason Young: Good advice, and I’m reminded about self-care. You know, a stronger immune system is more likely to fight off the virus and in the same way, when you strengthen yourself emotionally and mentally, you’re sometimes better able to cope with certain situations. So just a thought.

Let’s move to our next caller. Jean, who do we have?

Jean Setzfand: Well, we have Ariel from California.

Jason Young: Go ahead.

Ariel: Yes. My question is how to access resources when you don’t have a computer in your home. I’ve been feeling very frustrated. I’m part of a Buddhist community, especially, and my faith is really important for me keeping good mental health and keeping it together. And they are only offering stuff online, just not, not things even with a phone number and so I’m feeling very frustrated and angry that I’m cut off from what I need the most. And I just have feelings of feeling victimized and excluded. Like, yeah, just one more thing that people that can’t afford technology and aren’t smart enough to figure it out on their own are just getting shafted.

Jason Young: Dr. Ritchie, any thoughts for Ariel?

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: Well, that’s a hard one. I don’t know why she doesn’t have a computer at home. And it is true that a lot of this is being done over computer. A smartphone is an option. Finding a high school kid who can teach you how to use a smartphone may be an option. But it is true that technology — to its credit, I think technology has come an awful long way in just in the last few weeks as we have needed to use it.

Jason Young: Well, and I just want to remind people that if you would like to connect with AARP Community Connections, as a reminder, these are volunteers. They’re not trained mental health professionals and that sort of thing, but they are volunteers who provide a listening ear and will check in with you and it’s a free service. You can connect with them by calling 888-281-0145. So, Ariel, as a starting point, you might want to call 888-281-0145 and connect with the folks at AARP Community Connections.

Jean, do we have another caller?

Jean Setzfand: We have Danny from Texas.

Danny:  Good afternoon, y’all. Thank you as we say here in Texas for the work that you are doing as we adapt to these new normals. My question is in speaking about emotional health, one of the emotions of recent is anger, maybe a result of cabin fever, I don’t know. But it’s anger at my rights and my freedoms that are being violated by these new rules such as social distancing, use of gloves and face mask, and especially the stay at home except for essential outings. So what advice do you have for those angry about these changes?

Jason Young: Sure. Dr. Stewart, any thoughts for Danny in Texas about anger?

Altha Stewart: Thank you, Danny, I think that’s the big elephant-in-the-room question because people feel guilty that they’re angry about something that is in everybody’s best interest, but they don’t like it. I think the first thing is, I’ll refer back to something that Dr. Van Dahlen mentioned in her comments: Laughter is a very good antidote to many of the things that ail us. I would recommend that people who are aware that they’re being, they’re feeling angry about something that they can’t control, that is happening to everyone and that will end one day soon, we hope, that we begin to respond to that anger with laughter first and foremost. The fact that you are angry when you know you can’t do something, maybe giving yourself a pass and saying, You know, I’m just gonna laugh now because anger doesn’t do anything to help the situation.

The second thing is I would begin looking at ways to diffuse the anger. If the laughter doesn’t work. Look for ways to diffuse the anger. If you turn on your favorite music and start dancing ridiculously in front of the mirror, does that bring a smile to your face? Does that help diffuse the anger? If you take some steps outside or, or take a walk around the block, you know, maintaining all of the things you hate and you’re angry about but doing it anyway, will that help? Can you call and vent to someone who understands you’re just venting, you’re not, you know, upset with them or anything. You just need to vent. Can you watch a funny video online?

Try to find the things that will help you diffuse the anger. Recognize it’s about something you can’t do anything about, that’s out of your control. And then allow yourself to say, Okay, got it out. I was angry. I am angry. I will be angry again. But each time that happens, I know now what will help me deal with it. Practice that kind of self-care, if you will, that allows you to experience the feeling and then let it go because you can’t control any of the stuff that’s causing it.

Jason Young: Jean, who is our next caller?

Jean Setzfand: We have Dolores from Virginia.

Jason Young: Hi, Dolores.

Dolores: Hi. How are you?

Jason Young: Good. What’s your question?

Dolores: Yes, I haven’t, let me just get that. I wrote it. Yes. I was wondering if your presenters can share some creative, innovative ways that you can communicate, or long-term care facilities can help with communicating with loved ones. My mom is 92 years old and she’s in long-term care because of the COVID-19. And I visited her three or four times a week prior to her now being in lockdown. And, you know, my sisters and brothers and I, the primary ways they allow us to communicate is a 15-minute FaceTime once a week and then maybe a picture window once a week. So my question is, how do you, how does long-term care, are there innovative, creative ways that can be used to communicate and help family members communicate with their loved one?

Jason Young: Dr. Ritchie, any thoughts for Dolores’s situation?

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: Well, it is a tough one without easy answers, like so many of these things are. I also have a mother, parents in a nursing facility who are on lockdown now, and I’m frankly very glad that they are on lockdown because before that they refused to heed the warnings and were out and about and doing the kind of things we know now they shouldn’t have been doing. So these things are moving very quickly but I think — the phone. I dropped by groceries, which, I’m not allowed into the facility. You could write them a card. You could even write an old-fashioned letter. I know that some Girl Scout troops are putting together thank-you cards to the health care staff here at Washington Hospital Center. They’re going to quarantine them for a while.

And then if your mother is, knows how to use technology, you can always take pictures and email her the pictures. I don’t know. Some older folks are good with that and some just get frustrated with it.

Jason Young: You know, I think if you can drop off a care package, like a pack of photos or maybe a favorite book, that can help people feel like they’re connected, even though the in-person time is now limited.

So, Dr. Ritchie, we’re going to have to wrap soon and I just wanted to see if maybe we could get in one last call and, maybe some final thoughts. So, Jean, one more, one more brief call.

Jean Setzfand: Great. We have a call from Ron from Ohio.

Jason Young: Go ahead, Ron. 

Ron: I called earlier and I think a lot of the questions are pretty much answered, so I’m not going to take up a whole lot of time and I’m going to allow you to move on to one last call because much of my concerns were already addressed, and I’m going to express my deepest gratitude and pray for all of us. So move on to one last call beyond mine.

Jason Young: Well, thanks, Ron. Jean, who else do we have?

Jean Setzfand: We have all Olive from New Jersey.

Jason Young: All right. Go ahead.

Olive: My gratitude and appreciation for AARP doing this. I was listening for the past hour and really got a lot of insight from suggestions and clarifications. My quick question is regarding the telehealth. How does that work? Not necessarily for mental health issues, but I’m a retiree and I do have hypertension. Now if my pressure skyrockets or drops very low, as it does sometimes, how do I use telehealth, that mechanism to get to a doctor or something? How does that work?

Jason Young: Dr. Stewart, can you advise on that?

Altha Stewart: Sure. If you are under the care of a physician now or at a clinic where you see someone regularly for your blood pressure, I would reach out to them, by phone, and advise them of what your problems are.

And most places now, most clinics and doctor’s offices are providing services directly via telehealth, as Dr. Ritchie was describing earlier. They should be able to, depending on if you have a phone, a smartphone or a computer, they should be able to do their examination visits via one of those means and make up, provide a treatment plan for you on what to do next.

But I would first consult my doctor or the clinic where I’m receiving services.

Jason Young: Well, we’ve had so many tools, shared ideas, shared today that I feel energized and empowered, but I want to let our two guests who are still with us sign off by sharing with them, what’s keeping you going, what’s inspiring you?

Maybe Dr. Ritchie, we can start with you. How are you making it through these days?

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie: I am making it through by doing the job that I was trained to do. Let me close with a last concept though that I think is really important. You hear a lot about  PPE, personal protective equipment, and that being masks and gloves, but think of your mental health PPE. And that’s all the suggestions that you’ve heard today — to build up your immune system, the sleep, the exercise, working out — and that is your mental health personal protective equipment. So make sure you exercise that part of your body and mind.

Jason Young: Well, thanks for those ideas. Dr. Stewart, your thoughts?

Altha Stewart:  Well, I think Dr. Ritchie said it well. The only thing I will add — there are three things I will add.

One is, break the addiction of the 24-hour news cycle. No one needs to know every minute of breaking news about this crisis. We are in this for the long haul now. And, stressing yourself out with every, looking at every station, hearing every update, watching every talking head is only adding to the pressure and stressful. So break that cycle.

The second thing is, stay present, stay in the moment. Don’t fret about what happened yesterday or worry a lot about what may happen tomorrow. Try to stay present. And today’s present is: I will be active. I will stay calm. I will use my skills of humor and physical activity to maintain my emotional stability and well-being.

And the third thing is, stay connected. Just because we must stay apart does not mean that we should be alone. Use whatever means technologically or personally that you have to remain connected to people that you know, to people that you care about and that care about you and to people who understand your particular situation and are prepared to care for you, love you and relate to you no matter what.

Jason Young: Thank you for that, Dr. Stewart, and thank you both.

I just want to remind people that all of this great information is at aarp.org/coronavirus. Today’s call has been recorded and it will appear on the site and you can access it later. You can hear it on our podcast at AARP Take on Today.

And don’t forget about AARP Community Connections. That’s at aarpcommunityconnections.org. That’s the service to both offer help and get help for yourself and connect with our volunteers. And then also reminding you of the Connect2Affect  program that the AARP Foundation runs, which is about social isolation. That’s Connect2Affect.org.

In the face of this crisis, we are providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them to protect themselves from the virus. But we’re also trying to treat the fear, anxiety and social isolation that can go with it.

So all of these resources that were provided today I hope will be of help. I’d also share my favorite singer, John Prine, died two days ago, and he had the message, the song “Hello in There,” which was a great message to connect with people who may be isolated or lonely.

Again, the web address for all of our materials, AARP.org/coronavirus. If the questions that you have today were not answered there, we are putting the latest updates on our website, constant news and information for you. And please tune into our next Tele-Town Hall next week, April 16, at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Thank you all so much and I wish you good mental health, good centeredness. And, this concludes our call. Take care.

CORONAVIRUS  Tele-Town Hall April 9, 2020

Jason Young:  Hello. I am AARP Senior Vice President Jason Young, and I want to welcome you to this important conversation today about the coronavirus and your well-being. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization. We have been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years, but recently our lives have changed in a surreal way.

[00:00:24] In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing important information and resources to help you and all older adults and caregivers through this time. Today, we will talk with some of the best experts in the country who can share ideas and professional guidance to help you cope and stay connected with your loved ones during this anxious time.

[00:00:48] I hope we can use this time today to support each other. 

[00:00:52] If you’ve participated in one of our Tele-Town Halls before, you know this is similar to a radio talk show. And you also know I’m not the regular host. Bill Walsh and Jean Setzfand, my colleagues here at AARP, have done a great job covering issues like how to manage your money, protect your health and care for your loved ones. There’s a great online archive at aarp.org/coronavirus. 

[00:01:14] We’ll miss Bill today but fortunately I have Jean here with me. And the best part, as always, is that you have the opportunity to ask questions live. If you would like to ask a question about social connection and how you’re feeling and coping during the pandemic, press *3 on your telephone and you’ll be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question and place you in a queue so that you can ask your question later, live. To ask your question, again, press *3. We’ll do our best today to find a balance between finding the light — there’s so much good and kindness and selflessness going on in the world today — and acknowledging that some of us, maybe most of us, are feeling the strain of some dark days and weeks right now.

[00:02:02] Before we begin our conversation, we need to hear from you with a brief poll. So please take a moment to tell us, What activity are you doing most to maintain social connections during the coronavirus pandemic? On your telephone keypad, press 1 if you’re using phone calls; press 2 on your telephone keypad for video chats; press 3 on your telephone keypad for letters, emails or texts; press 4 on your telephone keypad for online games or apps. Lastly, press 5 on your telephone keypad for volunteering and helping others. So again, the poll question where you get to vote is, What activity are you doing most to maintain social connections with your family, your grandkids, your friends, your community during the coronavirus pandemic. On your keypad, press 1 for phone calls, 2 for video chats, 3 for letters, emails and texts, 4 for online games and apps, or 5 for volunteering and helping others.

[00:03:18] Hello, if you’re just joining us, I’m Jason Young with AARP and I want to welcome you to this important conversation about the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

[00:03:29] We are talking with leading experts on mental health, emotional well-being and staying centered, and we’re taking your questions live today. To ask your question, please press *3 on your phone. 

[00:03:44] We have some incredible guests, some incredible experts, and I want to briefly introduce them. They are: 

[00:03:51] Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD. She’s the executive director of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide. That’s an acronym: PREVENTS, the PREVENTS Task Force. We also have Dr. Altha Stewart, M.D., past president of the American Psychiatric Association, a psychiatrist in Memphis; and we have retired Col. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., who’s chair of the department of psychiatry at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, one of the frontline hospitals here in Washington, D.C. on coronavirus.

[00:04:29] AARP is convening this Tele-Town Hall today to help you access information about the coronavirus. While we see an important role for AARP in providing information and advocacy related to the coronavirus, you should be aware that the best source of health and medical information is the CDC. That’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the federal government, and it can be reached at cdc.gov/coronavirus. Also, for more information and resources related to mental health services, the federal government has an arm called the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, called SAMHSA, and that can be reached at samhsa.gov.

[00:05:25] This event is being recorded and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus. Everything that AARP has to offer about coronavirus is at aarp.org/coronavirus and this recording will be available 24 hours after today’s event. If you’d rather listen on the go, by the way, you can also hear past Tele-Town Halls on the AARP podcast AARP Take On Today.

[00:05:58] Let’s get started. Today we’re talking with experts about how to stay safe, healthy and connected with loved ones during the global coronavirus pandemic. This is a trying time for many, and AARP is advocating tirelessly for you, for our members and for all people age 50 and older during the pandemic, as well as caregivers. And I want to call out a few ways that we’ve been fighting for you. 

[00:06:23] First, AARP fought to ensure that Americans whose primary source of income is Social Security will also receive those direct impact payments you’ve heard of — the up to $1,200 under the recent stimulus package that passed Congress and was signed by the president — and you won’t have to file any extra paperwork to receive these payments. This is an ongoing effort.

[00:06:48] We have also asked for the same policy for people who receive payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs or other programs, like SSI. You might be one of those people who has recently lost your job. Or you’re feeling depressed or anxious about your job. And our experts can tackle that today, too, of course.

[00:07:09] Or you may have heard the news this morning that the unemployment rate is now estimated to be about 12 percent, the highest rate since the Great Depression. AARP has pushed for expanding unemployment insurance benefits, as well as paid sick leave and family leave for people who need to take time off to care for themselves or loved ones.

[00:07:31] Maybe today you’re one of those people who can’t visit or can’t be visited in a care facility. AARP has stood up for the most vulnerable seniors by fighting to protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, helping them to stay connected with family members, and we’ve helped secure increased funding for critical programs like Meals on Wheels.

[00:07:55] And while we’ve been hard at work in Washington, D.C., AARP has also had representatives across the country also fighting for you by working with state policymakers on a range of issues, things like visitation in nursing homes, telehealth, paid leave, preventing evictions, foreclosures, utility disconnects as people go through financial strain.

[00:08:20] And so I just want to share a few examples. In New Jersey, AARP urged passage of a new law to extend temporary disability and family leave benefits. In Alaska and Michigan, we helped to push for expansions in telehealth. We’ll certainly talk more about that today. And in Florida, we fought for a new law to increase the capacity of the health care system, specifically allowing nurse practitioners to do more to treat patients.

[00:08:48] So all of these are important victories for older Americans and for a health system under strain. But we would not have been able to make any of this possible without the phone calls, emails and actions from you. It’s the AARP members, the volunteers and the older adults all across the country who are making a difference. Thank you. 

[00:09:11] So let’s start with our first two guests. Our first guest, Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., is executive director of a really important initiative right now. It’s the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide Task Force. Sometimes shorthanded as the PREVENTS Task Force.

[00:09:37] She cofounded a program called Give an Hour, where volunteer mental health practitioners could offer mental health services to service members, veterans and others in need. And, she is just an incredible person with volunteerism in her heart and always fearless. Dr. Van Dahlen, I want to thank you for being with us.

[00:10:08]Barbara Van Dahlen:  Thank you, Jason, for the opportunity and thank you to all the listeners and also to the two extraordinary women who I’m sharing this panel with. I know them both and have tremendous respect for them. I’ve also been very connected to AARP for years. I have the privilege of serving on the advisory committee for AARP Foundation’s program Connect2Affect, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later today. 

[00:10:40] Just to give a little bit about the work that I’m doing currently, as you explained so well, PREVENTS is focused on empowering our veterans and ending a national tragedy of suicide. And the way that we are going about doing that, we can’t focus only on our veterans to really address what is a national crisis in suicide for all demographics that we’ve seen an increase in. So our work is all of government, all of nation to knit together, coordinate and aspire really to prevent suicide across our country.

[00:11:22] We’re doing that in a number of ways. One, we’re going to launch a massive public health campaign when we get on the other side of this crisis. And we’re doing a number of other things, but as our focus today is on this crisis: One of the things that PREVENTS is doing, we launched a program that I’ll talk more about and in some of my responses, but I think it’s very relevant, called hashtag MoreThanEverBefore.

[00:11:45] And the focus of this campaign is to encourage everyone, everyone in our nation, to pay attention to their emotional health and well-being every day. More than ever before it’s critical because of the stress, the strain and the challenges that we are seeing as a result of this crisis, and we’ve engaged ambassadors. Second Lady Karen Pence filmed a video. I’m pushing out a video every day, giving people tips and information about how to monitor how you’re doing, ways that we can all reach out and support and provide care for those we love. 

[00:12:28] You can find out more about the #MoreThanEverBefore initiatives by visiting our Facebook page, which is www.facebook.com/WeArePREVENTS, and we know that AARP is going to post all of that information so that folks can find us. But this conversation that we’re having today is so critical because the impact that this crisis will have, the long tail of this — yes, there’ll be economic consequences and, yes, people are dealing with physical consequences obviously during, but I know that the other two guests on this program, and I know AARP understands this, which is why you’re hosting this program, the long tail of this crisis will be the mental health consequences for many, many, many of our citizens. So thank you again for allowing me to be part of this. I’m really honored and excited to respond to questions that your listeners have. 

[00:13:35]Jason Young:  Thank you. Let’s introduce our second guest today, who is warm and excited and hopeful and full of Southern hospitality: Dr. Altha Stewart, who’s based in Memphis, Tennessee. She’s the immediate past president of the American Psychiatric Association and she was the first African American to lead that organization. And I remember, Dr. Stewart, I was so proud when that happened — I’ve known you for a long time — because we often say in communications that it’s not just the message, it’s the messenger.

[00:14:09] And you are such a great messenger of all things mental health. You’re at the University of Tennessee at the Health Science Center there, where you’re associate professor and chief of social and community psychiatry. You’ve worked for more than three decades as the CEO of large public mental health systems. And, boy, you’ve been in some hot zones before that are in the news today — in Michigan, in Pennsylvania and in New York and obviously now in Memphis. So we welcome you today as well. 

[00:14:41]Altha Stewart:  Well, thank you, Jason, for that very kind and warm introduction. I am so honored to be sharing today’s panel with the other two women. Certainly Barbara and I know each other, and Dr. Ritchie and I know each other and I’m pleased and really proud to be an AARP member myself and to see the beating the charge that while we may be apart, we are not alone in this crisis. 

[00:15:09] As you noted in the introduction, I have multiple roles in my work at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, one of which is senior associate dean for community health engagement, which means that right now in the midst of this crisis in my town, we are working very hard to assure that especially underserved and underrepresented racial and minority communities are getting access to testing and getting good medical advice on handling themselves in the midst of this crisis, are getting the right messages about why it is so important to self-isolate and be mindful of social distancing, but also being mindful of our emotional health and well-being.

[00:15:58] In my other role, I run a program called the Center for Health in Justice Involved Youth, where I frequently encounter grandparents, older relatives who are now primary caregivers, and I’m sure in the AARP membership, there are people who fit that category who are now facing this crisis, much like they faced other crises that they’ve gotten through, but now with the extra need to care for young children, teenage children, young adult children who are now living with them. 

[00:16:31] And so I think that this is a wonderful opportunity to share some real important information for the population that I hope is listening, to help them manage this crisis and maintain their emotional health and well-being.

[00:16:48] And I do come with a dose of Southern hospitality, so I warn everybody now, if I lapse into some Southern drawl, just understand that’s just me.

[00:16:58]Jason Young:  We’ll bear with you. 

[00:16:59] So, Dr. Van Dahlen, in most states, we are seeing that folks are several weeks into stay-at-home orders. I read the other day that about 90 percent of Americans are in their homes.

[00:17:14] And so while physical distancing is a critical tool to slow the spread of coronavirus, it has changed our routines and how we connect with loved ones. And many people have increased stress or anxiety during this time. Many of the folks on this call are probably grandparents. So what can someone do to monitor their own state and cope with this new reality?

[00:17:42]Barbara Van Dahlen:  That’s such an excellent question. And one that I think that we can all relate to. We are all experiencing significant changes, disruptions in our lives, and as a result, we’re all experiencing stress. And I think one of the things that we’re seeing and hearing is that this is changing over time, different emotions, different experiences, that we might have after the first week. Then comes the second weekend and different things that we hear in the news, whether our city might be one of the hot spots, et cetera.

[00:18:21] So the first thing that is really, really important for all of us to understand is that the anxiety, the fears, the anger, the boredom I hear from people about, their rent, they’re trying to figure out what to do during this time where they’re limited. All of these feelings are very normal. They’re very human. We humans sometimes get hard on ourselves, where we get frustrated or irritated with ourselves and can be harsh or label ourselves in ways that is more critical. So I remind people, these feelings are very understandable, very normal. That’s really important. 

[00:19:04] Second, tune in to how you’re feeling. Every day. This is what our #MoreThanEverBefore campaign is all about. More than ever before, we have to pay attention to our emotional health and well-being. It is equally as important as washing our hands and maintaining physical distance.

[00:19:24] We do that by just literally tuning into yourself. We typically are pretty good at knowing, you know, ‘Oh, gee, I’m crankier than usual,’ or ‘I’m angrier this afternoon than I was in the morning. What’s happening? What’s going on?’ Or, ‘I’m sad.’ The other day I was talking to my daughter about a story in the news that I had heard that was sad, but I started to cry in a way that was surprising to me and alerted me that, Wow, there are a lot of feelings that are right at the surface that are ready to sort of brim and bubble over. 

[00:20:00] So, encouraging people to tune into themselves, encouraging people to share how they’re doing with loved ones. It may be that you’re sharing with somebody that you’re sharing your home with right now; it could be a caretaker, it could be a family member, it could be by text, it could be by phone. 

[00:20:19] Sharing is such an important part of being connected. It’s such a healthy thing that we do for each other, with each other, and it’s bidirectional. So you may share with a grandson or a granddaughter by telling them how you’re doing; it’s equally valuable for them both to hear that and to turn around and share with you how they’re doing. So this is really a nice time to be supportive to others and to receive support since it helps us remember that we are not alone. 

[00:20:50] Another thing that we can do when we’re struggling with this sense of — a feeling, you know, that we’re either anxious or worried or fearful— is go to what you know is helpful to you. That might be reading, it might be music, it could be prayer. Again, reaching out to people. It could be watching a favorite movie that makes you laugh. So knowing what works for you, sharing what works for you with others, connecting with people through these other mechanisms. 

[00:21:22] One of the things that I have seen in our own neighborhood that I love: I’ll be taking our dog out — actually, the puppy, so that’s a handful just in and of itself, but I’ll take her out. And you know, everybody’s maintaining their distance, they’re sitting on their porches, but we nod, we smile. There’s warmth right now available for people, but if we don’t reach for it, we may not feel it. So, reaching out through other tools, other mechanisms, and coming back to where I began, which is make sure that you tune into yourself, and if others are sharing with you that they’re a little concerned, you seem sadder, have that conversation about why you might be feeling that or why you might be worrying so you can hear a heavy focus on making sure you don’t isolate yourself in yourself.

[00:22:12] We may be physically isolated. We may be removed from people that we care about, but we do not need to be socially or emotionally disconnected during this time. 

[00:22:20]Jason Young:  You know, I think that’s great advice. And you mentioned at your introduction, your prior work on AARP Foundation’s Connect2Affect campaign. And so I just want to share that with our callers.

[00:22:36] There’s something called Connect2Affect and it’s a platform that features resources. There’s a quiz that you can take ,a self-assessment, and it asks questions that really get at your risk for being isolated and feeling lonely, feeling disconnected, and then finding some practical ways. I’ve done the assessment myself, you can do it and then get practical ways to reconnect with your community, including some virtual volunteer and other things that you might want to consider, since we know the world has changed. 

[00:23:12] Dr. Stewart, I want to turn to you for a second question. One of the tips we’ve seen for managing stress is to remain physically active, go out on that dog walk. So why is this critical and what tips do you offer when some of our favorite facilities, community centers, senior centers and so on, are closed. 

[00:23:36]Altha Stewart:  Well, first, I want to echo something that Dr. Van Dahlen said, that we need to be mindful of the fact that we’re having this conversation about our emotional well-being, because I’m hearing from people that they feel like they’re losing their mind because they’re anxious or fearful or worried all the time. It is okay to be worried. These are very real things to worry about and that is not a sign that you are quote “losing it,” as someone asked me. So I want to build on that.

[00:24:07] And I think one of the reasons that we’re advising people to become physically active, even if they’ve not been before, is if there are things that our body does when we are physically active that support, improve a more positive emotional well-being. Everyone’s heard of endorphins and all those other things that really lift your spirits. They’re like the body’s natural antidepressant. 

[00:24:31] When you move, when you’re physically active, you generate certain things in your body that really do help you to feel better and allow you, if you’ve not been physically active, for example, taking a walk. If you can’t go outside because of where you live or something, or your mobility is limited, take a walk in your house. You know, if you’ve got a hallway or a big room, walk the perimeter of that. Just go round four or five times, making sure that you’re breathing and moving; being safe, of course. And, if you have mobility issues, we always encourage that you run this by your doctor to make sure it’s okay, but you can walk in your house ;if you’ve got steps and you can go outside, two or three steps to get onto your front porch, going up and down them a few times; again, safe, under a doctor’s okay. But that allows you to be physically active and keeps you thinking and moving in ways that support a better, overall health and well-being. 

[00:25:36] Some of the other things that we encourage people to do have to do with paying attention when you’re sitting for a long time. Particularly those of us who are working at home in front of our computers: Take breaks for a stretch, for deep breathing, for rotating your ankles, much like we do to prevent a deep vein thrombosis on a long airplane trip.

[00:25:59] Rotate your ankles, go back and forth with your leg and your foot. Do spins on your arms to get them moving and loosen them up. Do shoulder stretches. These are things that are easy to do, most people can do them and you don’t have to worry about you’re missing your time at the gym if that was one of your normal routines. It’s also very good for people in our age group, the over-60 crowd, that we understand that if we are limited in our capability because of arthritis or ambulatory problems or anything like that, that we can do a lot of these things while we’re seated comfortably in a chair and still get maximum benefit from them.

[00:26:46] And that whole social interaction, you know, we may have to be apart, but we don’t have to be socially isolated. Talking and engaging with people and maybe doing shared steps with a friend or a relative who’s also limited in what they can do. It’s just a way of socializing and getting your physical activity in at the same time. 

[00:27:09]Jason Young:  Well, I love that idea. I know some people are going back online and looking at some Denise Austin videos that we did a couple years ago, that you can do right in your house, right in your apartment. And, I know Jane Fonda’s been out repromoting some old videos of hers; lots of fun, but good advice. I also had a friend who quipped the other day — Dr. Stewart, you’ll like this: He said he wasn’t sure where he was going for Easter, the living room or the bedroom.

[00:27:41]Altha Stewart:  And so, taking a trip. That’s the point. Yes. Yep. 

[00:27:46]Jason Young:  Taking a trip. 

[00:27:47]Altha Stewart:  Whatever you have available, use that to be physically active.

[00:27:51]Jason Young:  Right, right at home. So, Dr. Van Dahlen, this is a difficult topic to discuss, and you actually have one of the most difficult jobs in the country, working on veteran suicide, so I know that you think about people who lose their loved ones. But this is a time when we hear from people who lose their loved ones for whatever reason. Maybe it’s COVID-19 but maybe it’s some other condition and they can’t be with their family during the final days or in a funeral setting, and they subsequently can’t mourn in the way that feels right to them, and that makes a terrible situation even worse. 

[00:28:30] So what can someone do to cope if somebody is experiencing a loss? And do you have any resources. 

[00:28:37]Barbara Van Dahlen:  Jason, that’s a such an important question right now. It is heartbreaking, the stories that we’re hearing, just heartbreaking. And, again, I go back to — Altha and I, in a way, we’re such a great tag team because we keep emphasizing all of these strong feelings that people are having are absolutely understandable and normal during this very abnormal time in our nation. Across our nation and around the world. 

[00:29:05] These, these losses are occurring, as you said, sometimes because of COVID-19, sometimes because of other reasons, but it means then that the family cannot get together. We have concerns. I have concerns. I know other mental health professionals have concerns about the long-term impact that some of these losses will have.

[00:29:25] There’s a term that we in the mental health field use; it’s called complicated bereavement. And what that means is that we humans when we lose someone, we go through a process of grieving, but if something interferes with our ability to grieve as we would normally grieve, it can leave some lasting challenges, can actually interfere with the emotional health and well-being of the person who’s needing to grieve. 

[00:29:54] So one of the things I want to say is, for those listening who may be or have experienced this, or who might experience this during this time, make sure that you, again, pay attention to, talk to people who you love about this, so if you would feel that, okay, I’m still feeling this overwhelming sadness and despair, loss, pain, longer than you would feel — not than someone else would feel makes sense for you, but you would feel, please talk to folks. So this may be months down the road, I’m saying this may have a long-term consequence.

[00:30:34] So 1 is recognizing that; 2 is understanding that as we are dealing with this physical isolation, people are already being incredibly innovative about how they can remember loved ones, who they are losing during this time, and using, whether it’s platforms that allow videos, chats. I’ve heard from people who are getting together to remember a loved one, who are sharing. They’re crying together. They’re creating other opportunities for future memorials that they plan to have, so they’re gathering pictures and they’re journaling about the individual so that they allow themselves to go through the process that is very healthy and very important. Memories, remembering, allowing ourselves to fully be sad. 

[00:31:33] You know, sometimes people use the traditions that we establish around funerals and burials and memorials, to let themselves go and be sad and cry. You may not have that option now that there may not be those formal traditions. And so allowing yourself to cry, and that may mean actually intentionally pulling out pictures or listening to music or watching things that helps stimulate the memories of the person that you’re grieving. 

[00:32:10] It will be challenging during this time, but it is very important that we do all that we can to work with our own physical limitations, engage others, use the tools we have, and it’s always healthy. It helps us so much when we reach out to others. So if you’re dealing with a loss and there’s someone in your family or community that shares that loss, by you reaching out and offering opportunity to talk, to share, to support one another, that’s good for us, too. 

[00:32:47]Jason Young:  Yeah. Wow. That’s a tough one. Dr. Stewart, mental health care, you know, has always had some challenges in this country and I’m curious if coronavirus has brought to the surface some of those existing challenges and because we want to empower people who are listening in today, maybe some ideas about what they can do in the face of those challenges.

[00:33:12]Altha Stewart:  Well, again, that’s an excellent question and I’m so happy that you’ve asked it. One of the problems separate from the original discussion we had about coping in this stressful time, this is a topic I think that bears some considerable conversation because the system, the mental health treatment system was already challenged, prior to the virus, the pandemic. And now in the face of not being able to access direct face-to-face care, having to rely more on technology to conduct our sessions, to provide support and services, to maintain contact — therapeutic, health care provider treatment contact with people — is an even bigger challenge for an already strained and stressed-out system.

[00:34:07] One of the things I think that we should all be mindful of is it’s persons with mental illness suffer not only illness, but the stigma associated with the illness, and in times where expressing concern and fear may be viewed by people who know them or who care about them as a manifestation of their illness as opposed to the real world fear that we are all feeling anxious and stressed about, we have to help family members, loved ones, caregivers understand that people with mental illness are responding in many of the same ways as everyone else in society to the real challenges that we are facing today around the unknown, about not being able to control things, about this 24-hour news cycle that can be in and of itself anxiety provoking.

[00:34:59] And so what I hope comes out of this crisis, this unfortunate and tragic crisis, for people with mental illness is that people will have a better understanding, the general public will have a better understanding of their needs, have a more likely capability to want to reach out and provide support and comfort since many of the traditional support and service systems are really not able to serve them in the same way. 

[00:35:31] And we’ll be able to assure people with mental illness who may be living in their own homes, who may be living in residential programs and supported housing, who may be with family members who are being tested and stressed because of their own challenges with this, that it will help people become more empathetic around some of their concerns and some of their support and service needs.

[00:35:57] I also think that because this is a stigmatized disorder, medical disorder, that we’re going to have to deal during this crisis with some of that stigma that prevents people from coming out, from understanding the importance, based on their vulnerability, because many of the people with mental illness have underlying medical conditions that may or may not be getting treated.

[00:36:23] So people who have diabetes, hypertension, all of the underlying conditions that we talk about in people who are vulnerable, especially to this virus, we have to be mindful that in those people who are mentally ill, those of us who are caring for them and care about them, have to make sure that they are doing the same kinds of public health guidance things that we’re asking other people to do: maintaining social distance, wearing masks in public. All of those things have to be encouraged in people with mental illness who may not be getting the message in the same way others are about the importance of this stuff. And those of us who care for them and care about them need to help them understand that.

[00:37:10] We have to be mindful of the fact that many people with mental illness remain homeless, incarcerated or otherwise estranged from society. And this time more than ever, those who do volunteer work out of a church or a nonprofit need to be mindful of the needs of this particular group of people and ask them things: Do you need anything? Are you taking your medicine? Can you get to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription? 

[00:37:37] This is the time when I think we all have to extend ourselves a little more because this is a particular group of people who always need our help and support and who need it now more than ever. 

[00:37:50]Jason Young:  Well, that’s a great time to remind our listeners today that if you have a question that you’d like to ask Dr. Stewart or Dr. Van Dahlen, you can press *3 on your phone and that will put you into the queue. We’re getting ready to take questions. Dr. Stewart, your last comments remind me that telehealth services are increasingly available. Some group therapy and support groups are actually going online, and so that might be a good resource to check out. And I want to remind people about the AARP Foundation’s tool, Connect2Affect.org. 

[00:38:36] We’re now going to take your questions and Dr. Van Dahlen and Dr. Stewart will answer them. Press *3 at any time on your phone keypad in order to be connected with AARP staff. You can share your question and be put in the queue. We have on the line with us as well my colleague Jean Setzfand, AARP senior vice president of programs. Jean is going to be the organizer of the call-in portion and help facilitate your calls. So I just want to welcome Jean back to our Tele-Town Hall. Hi, Jean. 

[00:39:16]Jean Setzfand:  I am delighted to be here with you today.

[00:39:19]Jason Young:  So, Jean, I think this is an incredibly important conversation that you and your team have lined up for today. And, of course, we’re going to take our callers’ calls. I also want to remind people that in just a moment we’ll have another guest expert join us, a woman who is going to totally impress you after her 24 years in uniform and just extensive knowledge of both military and veterans mental health care and then the broader, mental health system at large, and will be very helpful to answering your questions. For right now, though, we’re going to take questions for Dr. Stewart and Dr. Van Dahlen. Jean, do you have any questions in the queue at this time?

[00:40:06]Jean Setzfand:  We do we have quite a few calls, the first one coming from Lorraine of New York. 

[00:40:12]Lorraine:  Yes, hello. I have very bad panic attacks and I wanted to know, is there anywhere we could call, or anyone that can help us when it gets really, really bad. I can’t seem to get myself centered again. And is there a number that we could call, somebody we could talk to when these things happen? 

[00:40:40]Jason Young:  Lorraine, I’m so sorry to hear you’re experiencing that. And of course you’re in New York, in the middle of it all. Dr. Stewart, do you have any advice for how Lorraine might approach her situation? 

[00:40:54]Altha Stewart:  Yes. And, Lorraine, I too am sorry that this has resulted in you having additional problems on top of this. So if you have a current therapist, I would say first, let’s check in with that person. if you were not seeing someone prior to this and so don’t have a connection to anyone in the mental health treatment community, New York has a very extensive network of hotlines and crisis lines, mental health crisis lines. I don’t know the actual dial direct or website to look into but if you search for whatever your local phone directory can provide, if you search for mental health crisis line or crisis text line or something like that, you should come up with the names and contact information for your local crisis hotline.

[00:41:56] There is also a national, mental health crisis line and I’m so sorry I don’t have that information available with me, but I’m sure before the end of the call, someone can provide that or it can be provided, through your AARP resources, Jason. 

[00:42:14]Jason Young:  Absolutely. And I want to share the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. And that lifeline is available 24-7. It is free and confidential support for people in distress, a prevention crisis, that sort of thing, or your loved ones. And the number is 800-273-TALK. That’s 800-273-8255. 

[00:42:41]Altha Stewart:  The other thing I would say to the caller is, if you have a friend or loved one who you have shared this panic attack problem with, I would ask that you speak with them and stay in good contact with them because you do need someone. And while you’re reaching out for the hotlines and the crisis lines, you do need someone who knows that they need to check on you, they need to check in with you. They need to call, and they should expect you to call them because we don’t want you isolated in the midst of having these panic attacks and in the midst of a very real situation.

[00:43:21] Also, I would advise that you do not watch the news a lot. That tends to trigger and make people more anxious. And right now, things that you need to do to stay calm are the things I’m sure you already know about in terms of relaxation and deep breathing, and if you meditate, this is the time to really pull in all of those areas that you can use to help you manage the attacks until you can get to someone professionally for help. But I wish you the best of luck through this. 

[00:43:54]Jason Young:  Thank you, Dr. Stewart. Jean, who is our next caller? 

[00:43:58]Jean Setzfand:  Our next caller is Debra, calling in from Virginia. 

[00:44:01]Jason Young:  Debra, go ahead. 

[00:44:04]Debra:  Yes. I just had a question that this AARP Foundation Connect2Affect may answer, but there does seem to be a lot of telemedicine going on and has been even before this. But what about if you do not have a connection with a psychiatrist or a counselor for mental health issues like depression and anxiety and, are services offered that can be done from home? I’m 66, I really don’t want to have to go anywhere. I’m just wondering if some of that information from that website or … I’m wondering about an online thing or some way to connect and actually talk to somebody. 

[00:44:56]Jason Young:  Sure, Debra, we’ll get you an answer. I can also tell you to check out — your primary care can often steer you to the right kind of help and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that I mentioned if you really are having that kind of, those feelings right now offers online chat as well. Dr. Van Dahlen, would you have any thoughts for Debra? 

[00:45:24]Barbara Van Dahlen:  Yes. And Debra, that’s a great, it’s a great question. And many of the things that Altha was suggesting for Lorraine apply here as well, that your county website should have, your state and county website should also have resources that are local that may be offering telehealth. I know, for example, the VA, Department of Veterans Affairs, much of their mental health care is now shifted to telehealth care because like you, we don’t want to be out. We want to be doing what we’re supposed to do, which is staying at home. If you have a 211 effort in your community, 211 is another resource that often has local organizations, local services that deliver mental health care. There are a number now of online and mobile app companies that are delivering telehealth, and mobile applications. And one of the things that — I know that Dr. Ritchie is going to talk about this in the next hour but for the next segment, but just to sort of let folks know, we know that these new applications are actually very effective and very helpful.

[00:46:42] So Jason mentioned, the text function and we know that texting with a therapist, with a counselor is helpful, as is the telehealth where you’re actually able to see each other. And so some of these online, obviously do your research or ask other folks, look at the reviews, but they’re out there and some of them are quite reputable. There’s one that Michael Phelps is a spokesperson for. I know Michael, and I know the work, that he cares deeply about this. So, I would say, you know, 211, your state and county websites should have good references, good resources. SAMHSA is a government agency that Jason mentioned, and they will also have ways to help you find local services. On our Facebook page we will have resources as well. I know AARP will as well. So hopefully through all of that, you’ll be able to get some good help in identifying places to try, because they’re out there and they’re effective. 

[00:47:50]Altha Stewart:  If I could, I might, my great staff has forwarded me some of the numbers that I would like to share, if that’s okay, so the people have a wide range of options for how to access help depending on where they are. There is a national Disaster Distress Line that has been created and that number is 800-985-5990. 800-985-5900. There was also the NAMI help in a crisis line, where you can actually text the letters N-A-M-I to 741741. NAMI has a HelpLine, and that number is [800] 950-6264, just so that people have options if they don’t have like the 211 or don’t have a vast resource in their local areas. These are opportunities and options for people to at least call and speak with someone and get guidance if needed.

[00:49:05]Jason Young:  Thank you, Dr. Stewart. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. If you have not heard of them before, they’re a truly outstanding group and they’re in many communities all across the country.

[00:49:17] Before we move on, Dr. Van Dahlen, I understand that you have to run to an important White House meeting and so I want to give you an opportunity to share any closing thoughts before you have to get off to your important work.

[00:49:29]Barbara Van Dahlen:  Oh, well, Jason, thank you. I actually don’t need to leave quite yet. I’m happy to stay. I do have to get on a White House call at about 10 after the hour. So I’m happy to wrap up now or stay on, if that makes sense. Either way. 

[00:49:46]Jason Young:  Well, let me share the poll results then from the top of the call. We asked you to tell us how you were staying in touch with your network during this trying time. And 59 percent of you said that phone calls are the thing that you are doing to maintain your social connections; 22 percent of you selected, letters, emails and texts. So that’s great that people are using both good old-fashioned and new technology to stay in touch. 

[00:50:16] I also want to share AARP Community Connections. This is a new platform that we have. Sometimes hearing a friendly voice can help in challenging times. This is not mental health care. These are volunteers available at AARP Community Connections. It’s a free service for all adults 18 and older. It has trained volunteers and they are standing by to provide a friendly call and to say hello.

[00:50:45] If you would like to speak to someone, they are available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time. That’s Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 Eastern, and they’re at 888-281-0145. Leave us your information and our volunteers will get back in touch with you. And if you prefer, you can also set up a recurring call, a check-in call, say every Wednesday at 2 p.m. for a check-in. And so this is, again, a free service, regardless of whether you’re an AARP member or not. We do have some bilingual capabilities as well, so we can offer those services in Spanish. And one more time, that phone number is [888] 281-0145. 

[00:51:38] Before we say goodbye to Dr. Van Dahlen, I want to bring in one of her colleagues, also very knowledgeable of veterans and military, mental health issues: Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D.; she’s a psychiatrist, chair of the department of psychiatry at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

[00:52:03] And I have to tell you, I have known Cam for a long time and, she is tough as nails, knows her stuff and spent 24 years in uniform. She is on the frontlines now, thinking about the mental health intersections with infectious disease like coronavirus. She retired from the U.S. Army in 2010 but had spent her final five years in uniform as the top advocate for mental health within the Office of the Army Surgeon General.

[00:52:37] So, Dr. Ritchie, welcome to you today. 

[00:52:40]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  It’s a pleasure to be here. As you said, we are very much on the frontlines and that is both very exciting — I feel like I’ve trained all my life to do this. I’ve always had an interest in the intersection between infectious disease and mental health. And it’s also obviously quite scary as our hospital, as other hospitals, become filled with COVID patients.

[00:53:07] I’m doing quite a bit of work with the staff here, trying to help them manage anxiety, and like everybody else, I do best myself when I’m focused and can do my job but wake up at 2 in the morning and have gone, Oh, no, we’re all going to die. And then I realized, well, yes, we are all going to die. That’s part of the human condition.

[00:53:29] But in the meantime, you need to do your job and you need to do it well, and that helps me focus. So, for whatever it’s worth to the group. 

[00:53:39]Jason Young:  Well, I’m so glad that you’re here. You know, we’ve seen the surge in interest in using telehealth in this crisis. And I understand that the Veterans Health Administration is a real leader in the use of telehealth, including tele mental health. And, so I know you’re no longer with the VA, but you are very knowledgeable of that world and can you explain, and obviously telehealth is also now part of Medicare, but can you explain how does that work? How is it used? 

[00:54:08]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  Let me go back a little bit because I actually first used telehealth when I was deployed in Somalia back in the early ’90s, so it has actually had a very long use in the military because, for example, if you’re at sea on a ship, you may not have a specialist there, but you can call back. Or in the early days it would take photographs, say of a strange rash, and send them back to Walter Reed and then do telehealth. In the VA, it has progressed greatly. Many veterans live in rural areas, and so they’ve really perfected the technology, but the technology has also gotten better. 

[00:54:49] One of the things or the ways that it was an advantage for the VA is that the practitioners did not need to have the same medical license as the patients, of states. In other words, in the rest of the States, if you were seeing a patient in Maryland and you were in D.C., you had to have a Maryland medical license. Now, in the last two weeks, we’ve just seen incredible advances, both with technology and also with not having to have those rules about the medical licenses.

[00:55:20] So now I do on my phone, I do video to talk to patients on their phone, by video. Now, sometimes they don’t know how to do that, and then we do an old-fashioned phone call. But many people find that seeing their doctor’s face is very reassuring, just remembering that somethings are the same. So I would recommend video technology if you can, but the phone call, if you can’t. Don’t ask me though about particular video technologies because everybody is doing it slightly differently, so if I told you what I was doing it probably wouldn’t transmit very well. 

[00:56:02]Jason Young:  Sure. Well, you know, I’m interested to dig in a little bit further because both you and Dr. Van Dahlen have provided just extraordinary care and leadership for members of the armed services.

[00:56:19] And of course, AARP is a very large membership organization and so, sort of by accident, we just happen to have lots and lots of members who are retired military, and so concerns of the troops, concerns of veterans are always concerns of AARP’s. And so I want to go back to Dr. Van Dahlen before we have to let you go.

[00:56:41] You know, it occurs to me, Dr. Van Dahlen, that the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 are becoming increasingly known — fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell — where sometimes psychological effects are a little more invisible. And I just wondered if you’d give us some parting wisdom about how to approach that.

[00:57:05]Barbara Van Dahlen:  Thank you, Jason, and thank you for allowing me to, to stay on a little while. This is such an important conversation and I so appreciate AARP holding this forum and allowing us to have the chance to share. 

[00:57:21] So you’re absolutely right that we don’t always recognize the impact, the effects of the stress, the strain, what’s happening to us, while it’s happening, and this is something that is exactly at the heart and soul of our #MoreThanEverBefore campaign. It really is trying to get everyone to pay attention every day. Every day tune in that you recognize — and we all continue to learn our entire lives how we are affected by what happens to us, whether it’s coming from the outside, whether it’s coming from our own thoughts.

[00:58:06] You know, I’m thinking back to Lorraine, the caller, and her distress and the panic attacks, which is so, it makes me so sad for her. And it’s something we all are very close to, that anxiety and that fear. And so just as a connection to that, you know, one of the things that — Lorraine is aware, she understands that when she’s having a panic attack, what that looks like, what it feels like, and good for her because that’s the beginning of being able to respond to it. 

[00:58:40] Other people who maybe have never experienced a panic attack may not understand when they feel tightness in their chest, when they’re having shortness of breath, when their thoughts are racing. They may be confused and not be sure, what is this? Is, am I having a heart attack? Is this a sign of COVID-19? And, again, totally normal that we would wonder about that. And I would encourage anyone, obviously, who’s having those symptoms to, in fact, call, reach out to your doctor, your primary care doctor and have that conversation. But sometimes, that’s anxiety; sometimes that’s the beginning of what could turn into a full-blown panic attack. So if you haven’t had anxiety to this level before, it may not be familiar what it looks like. 

[00:59:31] Other things that we might notice, we might have trouble sleeping and if we’re already somebody who maybe isn’t the best, sleep is not always easy for us, it might get exacerbated and you might be trying to figure out, Why am I having more trouble than usual falling asleep? Or, Why am I waking up? Could very well be that it’s the stress, it’s the anxiety, it’s the worry, it’s the sadness. 

[00:59:56] And so those are times then to look at in our emotional well-being toolbox: What do we rely on?

[01:00:04] I get up if I’m having trouble sleeping. I’ll get up. I’ll try to write some thoughts down to kind of get it out of my head, get it on to paper. Sometimes that allows me to go back to sleep. My husband, he gets up, he’ll go read, he’ll read one of his books that he’s reading, and that helps put him back to sleep.

[01:00:22] So think about what works for you, if that’s the way you see it. 

[01:00:26] Another thing that I’ve been hearing a lot is people feel very lethargic, very heavy — physically heavy, it’s hard to move. I’d go back to Altha’s great recommendation to try to move. That’s a great antidote. Our body creates wonderful chemicals that help us when we are moving, those great endorphins. So, trying to move. 

[01:00:49] Another sort of tool that’s available to all of us really is laughter. When we laugh, it releases great, great, again, great chemicals in our brains. Similarly, sometimes a good cry is helpful to us. Babies, you know, they cry and they cry and they cry. There’s something going on beyond just that they’re expressing their distress, their frustration. There is something very appropriate and important about that valve. 

[01:01:17] So you may feel heavy, you may have difficulty concentrating. You may be more irritable and agitated. And you may notice that you’re not really taking a whole, you know, taking good care of yourself in the way you normally would. And that’s really, really important not to let that slide. So make sure you stay on your routine. You know, get up at the time you get up. Make sure you’re showering, that you’re eating good food, healthy food at normal times during the day that you normally would. 

[01:01:50] Definitely reach out to those in your community, in your family. Have those real conversations, try to get beyond the one-word answer, especially if you’re feeling tight or upset or distressed. Push yourself to do more, to express more, as much as you can. Again, remember you might be opening the door for someone else who needs to talk to you. And by doing that, you help each other.

[01:02:18] I do need to head off now to this next important call. It is, in fact, a statement of the importance of this topic. So thank you, AARP for the time. I want to just give a shout-out to our website and our Facebook page so people can learn more about us. Our Facebook is www.facebook.com/WeArePREVENTS. Our website is www.va.gov/PREVENTS. I hope that people who are on Facebook, who like to Twitter — I do Twitter more than I do Facebook, but we’re on both — it’s hashtag MoreThanEverBefore. 

[01:03:05] We must pay attention to our emotional health and well-being. We are not alone. We are in this together. We will get through this together. Thank you all for joining. Thank you to my dear friends Altha and am for being part of this. Thank you again to AARP. 

[01:03:19]Jason Young:  Thank you, Dr. Van Dahlen and for your public service, and good luck with your meeting. I would like to remind our callers to press *3 if you would like to ask a question of either Dr. Stewart or Dr. Ritchie.

[01:03:33] And, let’s move to a caller. Jean, who do we have? 

[01:03:39]Jean Setzfand:  We have Aaron from D.C. 

[01:03:42]Jason Young:  Aaron, go ahead. 

[01:03:43]Aaron:  Yeah. Yes. Hello? my name is Aaron. I’m a veteran, senior veteran here, aging solo in the D.C. area, and I suffer from PTSD, severe depression and suicide ideation. But I’m in treatment. My question is with the new coronavirus, and I don’t know if this is how I feel, but how it was coronavirus — I’m trying not to let it be a trigger for my other PTSD symptoms. And also I’m trying to distinguish because social isolation is a part of my way of life for PTSD, and to distinguish between the difference between PTSD, social isolation, not letting it become social distancing, or maybe it’s the other way around, not letting social distancing become social isolation. So I was wondering what advice, you may have for that. 

[01:04:42]Jason Young:  Well, Aaron, first, I want to thank you for your service to the country. Dr. Ritchie, you know these issues. What are your thoughts? 

[01:04:51]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  I do, and I also thank you and all the veterans out there for their service. I think that’s a very good question and one of the ways I would start is with the person you’re in therapy with now. As I mentioned before, the VA has an extensive telemedicine. Some veterans like to go to the VA, some people want to go elsewhere, but to reach out telephonically.

[01:05:15] There’s also a number of support groups. A while back they reduced the number of support groups at the VA but they’ve started them up again and, excuse me, they started up in general. And if you can’t find a support group, then start a support group yourself. Sometimes people sit back and think somebody else is going to do it. And of course we’ve overwhelmed you with all the resources out there. And maybe, maybe as a result of the call, we could find out who are the veterans and see who wanted to do a support group. 

[01:05:48] Sir, what time were you in service? Often helps people of the same war, the same era, they often connect to each other. 

[01:05:59]Jason Young:  Yeah, unfortunately, we have lost connectivity with Aaron, so he can’t follow up. But, but let’s do move on to another caller. Jean, who else do we have? 

[01:06:11]Jean Setzfand:  We have Cornelius from Louisiana. 

[01:06:14]Jason Young:  Go ahead, Cornelia. 

[01:06:17]Cornelius:  Hello. My name is Cornelius from Alexandria, Louisiana, and we are having a little problem with — I’m a Korean war vet so I salute that veteran and the veteran doctor, Dr. Ritchie, and it’s nice to have you on Dr. Stewart from the University of Tennessee. I went to Louisiana Tech, old Bulldogs, and that’s where Terry Bradshaw was from. But my question, being African American, I’m almost 90 years old, and with the stuff that’s going around here in Louisiana and all over the country and all over the world, African Americans need a lot of mental health and stuff. So what would we need to do as African Americans, and I would appreciate that. I’ll take my answer off the air. Thank you.

[01:07:01]Jason Young:  Thank you, Cornelius. Sorry, I got your name wrong. Dr. Stewart, thoughts for Cornelius in Louisiana? 

[01:07:08]Altha Stewart:  Well, thank you, Cornelius for that question. Specific to the coronavirus, what we are seeing in the early data is that much like one would expect if you follow the science and information about disparities in health for people, in minority and underserved populations like African Americans, we are seeing a similar difference in its impact and in the outcome of what is being done to support these folks. It’s early, still in the, in the sort of cycle of the virus, but so far, there was lots and lots and lots of information surrounding that we’ve got to pay attention, we’ve got to make sure we get the message right about what people should be doing, the myths and things that are going around on the internet.

[01:08:05] I know somebody who is 90 years old probably doesn’t listen to a lot of that mess, as my granddaddy used to call it, but there are myths going around and sayings about, that the coronavirus won’t affect black people, that it simply does not affect them. That is untrue. We can see by the numbers of people in New York and certainly now in Louisiana, that they are affected at rates that are very out of proportion to the number of people who are black who live in those settings. 

[01:08:41] And so, seeking mental health care can be a challenge when you are African American, especially if you are looking for a therapist who is also African American; there’s just not a lot of us out there. There may be 4,000 black psychiatrists, maybe a few thousand more black psychologists, more black social workers than either of the other two. 

[01:09:02] But the important thing is that if you feel like you need that kind of help, if you want therapy, if you feel like you need therapy, if today’s circumstances make you believe that you need help from someone who is professionally trained to help you deal with the things you’re struggling with, find that help. We gave some numbers earlier. You can identify resources in your local area that may be appropriate for what you need help with. But the important thing is that you recognize that this could be a problem and that you want to get help for it. And I commend you for that. And for living to be 90 years old, congratulations.

[01:09:43]Jason Young:  Absolutely. Seeking help is a sign of strength, as we always say.

[01:09:49] Jean, do we have other callers? Who’s next? 

[01:09:52]Jean Setzfand:  Absolutely. So we have Ruth from a 601 area code. 

[01:09:57]Jason Young:  Ruth, is that New Jersey? 

[01:10:00]Ruth:  No, it’s Mississippi. 

[01:10:01]Jason Young:  Oh, goodness. My family’s home state. Shame on me. I don’t call enough. Go ahead, Ruth. 

[01:10:07]Ruth:  My name is Ruth and I have a question relating to caregivers who might be experiencing burnout. They normally have some risks. This where they will send their individual to an adult day care facility and they’re there normally for about four to five hours, but now we don’t have that, they’ve been shut down. What specific suggestions do you have for caregivers to prevent them from doing abuse to their care recipient?

[01:10:39]Jason Young:  Caregiving is one of the toughest jobs in ordinary times. Dr. Stewart, what are your thoughts. 

[01:10:45]Altha Stewart:  Well, unfortunately, I have some personal experience with being a caregiver over a period of time. And I think, Ruth, what you are describing is, is really a very difficult situation, as Jason said, in the best of times.

[01:11:00] Some of the things that come to mind that may be helpful are, there are people who can still provide in-home care with the right precautions and everything. They may be difficult to find these days, but many of the home health agencies are continuing to try to be supportive, recognizing that family members especially who are primary caregivers, really do still need respite.

[01:11:27] You may have to seek resources through a church group or a nonprofit that does this or family who are comfortable and are not themselves likely to expose or be exposed, but it really does depend on your ability to mobilize those resources. And it’s tough when you’re the caregiver trying to find your own respite. I understand that, and I feel for you. I’m just north of you in Tennessee, so I feel for you about that because there are limited resources on a good day and this is really stretching the availability of people who can provide the level of care that you want for your loved one. And the importance of recognizing that abuse is often the result when we don’t have good care is also an important one.

[01:12:17] I don’t have any more specific advice for you at this point. Reach out into your network, if you have church members who do this and might be willing to help. It means having all of the right equipment, protective equipment. It means maintaining, as best you can, the public health guidelines. And it also means coordinating your loved one’s care with their doctor to assure if there are any additional steps that need to be taken, if those are also built into whatever you can arrange. 

[01:12:49]Jason Young:  Dr. Ritchie, I’m curious. Many military spouses and parents are also caregivers and do you have a perspective on Ruth’s question? 

[01:12:59]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  I do have a perspective. It’s not a reassuring one. What we do know from other pandemics, like SARS is, A. that pandemic passes, and that’s good news, but that there is a lingering after-effect because of the unemployment and the hospitality shutdowns and so the family has been cooped up together. And so usually what we see over time is more domestic violence, abuse, irritability.

[01:13:28] I think being aware of that and doing all the things that Dr. Stewart suggests is helpful to anticipate it. I also wanted to say a word about another population, which is of great concern to us, which is our homeless population who are not getting the support services they need and may become suicidal or have previous severe mental illnesses.

[01:13:51] And of course there’s a number of populations — we’ve mentioned briefly those incarcerated, those in nursing homes who are stuck. So this is going to be an issue. The more you can do to reach out and help other people, probably the better you’ll feel. That’s what usually gets people through this, if you can help somebody else.

[01:14:12]Jason Young:  Good advice, and I’m reminded about self-care. You know, a stronger immune system is more likely to fight off the virus and in the same way, when you strengthen yourself emotionally and mentally, you’re sometimes better able to cope with certain situations. So just a thought. 

[01:14:30] Let’s move to our next caller. Jean, who do we have? 

[01:14:34]Jean Setzfand:  Well, we have Ariel from California. 

[01:14:37]Jason Young:  Go ahead. 

[01:14:40]Ariel:  Yes. My question is how to access resources when you don’t have a computer in your home. I’ve been feeling very frustrated. I’m part of a Buddhist community, especially, and my faith is really important for me keeping good mental health and keeping it together. And they are only offering stuff online, just not, not things even with a phone number and so I’m feeling very frustrated and angry that I’m cut off from what I need the most. And I just have feelings of feeling victimized and excluded. Like, yeah, just one more thing that people that can’t afford technology and aren’t smart enough to figure it out on their own are just getting shafted.

[01:15:28]Jason Young:  Dr. Ritchie, any thoughts for Ariel? 

[01:15:31]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  Well, that’s a hard one. I don’t know why she doesn’t have a computer at home. And it is true that a lot of this is being done over computer. A smartphone is an option. Finding a high school kid who can teach you how to use a smartphone may be an option. But it is true that technology — to its credit, I think technology has come an awful long way in just in the last few weeks as we have needed to use it.

[01:16:00]Jason Young:  Well, and I just want to remind people that if you would like to connect with AARP Community Connections, as a reminder, these are volunteers. They’re not trained mental health professionals and that sort of thing, but they are volunteers who provide a listening ear and will check in with you and it’s a free service. You can connect with them by calling 888-281-0145. So, Ariel, as a starting point, you might want to call 888-281-0145 and connect with the folks at AARP Community Connections. 

[01:16:37] Jean, do we have another caller? 

[01:16:40]Jean Setzfand:  We have Danny from Texas.

[01:16:43]Danny:  Good afternoon, y’all. Thank you as we say here in Texas for the work that you are doing as we adapt to these new normals. My question is in speaking about emotional health, one of the emotions of recent is anger, maybe a result of cabin fever, I don’t know. But it’s anger at my rights and my freedoms that are being violated by these new rules such as social distancing, use of gloves and face mask, and especially the stay at home except for essential outings. So what advice do you have for those angry about these changes? 

[01:17:22]Jason Young:  Sure. Dr. Stewart, any thoughts for Danny in Texas about anger? 

[01:17:29]Altha Stewart:  Thank you, Danny, I think that’s the big elephant-in-the-room question because people feel guilty that they’re angry about something that is in everybody’s best interest, but they don’t like it. I think the first thing is, I’ll refer back to something that Dr. Van Dahlen mentioned in her comments: Laughter is a very good antidote to many of the things that ail us. I would recommend that people who are aware that they’re being, they’re feeling angry about something that they can’t control, that is happening to everyone and that will end one day soon, we hope, that we begin to respond to that anger with laughter first and foremost. The fact that you are angry when you know you can’t do something, maybe giving yourself a pass and saying, You know, I’m just gonna laugh now because anger doesn’t do anything to help the situation.

[01:18:22] The second thing is I would begin looking at ways to diffuse the anger. If the laughter doesn’t work. Look for ways to diffuse the anger. If you turn on your favorite music and start dancing ridiculously in front of the mirror, does that bring a smile to your face? Does that help diffuse the anger? If you take some steps outside or, or take a walk around the block, you know, maintaining all of the things you hate and you’re angry about but doing it anyway, will that help? Can you call and vent to someone who understands you’re just venting, you’re not, you know, upset with them or anything. You just need to vent. Can you watch a funny video online? 

[01:19:03] Try to find the things that will help you diffuse the anger. Recognize it’s about something you can’t do anything about, that’s out of your control. And then allow yourself to say, Okay, got it out. I was angry. I am angry. I will be angry again. But each time that happens, I know now what will help me deal with it. Practice that kind of self-care, if you will, that allows you to experience the feeling and then let it go because you can’t control any of the stuff that’s causing it. 

[01:19:35]Jason Young:  Jean, who is our next caller? 

[01:19:39]Jean Setzfand:  We have Dolores from Virginia. 

[01:19:41]Jason Young:  Hi, Dolores. 

[01:19:43]Dolores:  Hi. How are you? 

[01:19:45]Jason Young:  Good. What’s your question? 

[01:19:47]Dolores:  Yes, I haven’t, let me just get that. I wrote it. Yes. I was wondering if your presenters can share some creative, innovative ways that you can communicate, or long-term care facilities can help with communicating with loved ones. My mom is 92 years old and she’s in long-term care because of the COVID-19. And I visited her three or four times a week prior to her now being in lockdown. And, you know, my sisters and brothers and I, the primary ways they allow us to communicate is a 15-minute FaceTime once a week and then maybe a picture window once a week. So my question is, how do you, how does long-term care, are there innovative, creative ways that can be used to communicate and help family members communicate with their loved one? 

[01:20:50]Jason Young:  Dr. Ritchie, any thoughts for Dolores’s situation? 

[01:20:53]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  Well, it is a tough one without easy answers, like so many of these things are. I also have a mother, parents in a nursing facility who are on lockdown now, and I’m frankly very glad that they are on lockdown because before that they refused to heed the warnings and were out and about and doing the kind of things we know now they shouldn’t have been doing. So these things are moving very quickly but I think — the phone. I dropped by groceries, which, I’m not allowed into the facility. You could write them a card. You could even write an old-fashioned letter. I know that some Girl Scout troops are putting together thank-you cards to the health care staff here at Washington Hospital Center. They’re going to quarantine them for a while. 

[01:21:43] And then if your mother is, knows how to use technology, you can always take pictures and email her the pictures. I don’t know. Some older folks are good with that and some just get frustrated with it. 

[01:21:57]Jason Young:  You know, I think if you can drop off a care package, like a pack of photos or maybe a favorite book, that can help people feel like they’re connected, even though the in-person time is now limited.

[01:22:10] So, Dr. Ritchie, we’re going to have to wrap soon and I just wanted to see if maybe we could get in one last call and, maybe some final thoughts. So, Jean, one more, one more brief call. 

[01:22:23]Jean Setzfand:  Great. We have a call from Ron from Ohio. 

[01:22:26]Jason Young:  Go ahead, Ron. 

[01:22:29]Ron:  I called earlier and I think a lot of the questions are pretty much answered, so I’m not going to take up a whole lot of time and I’m going to allow you to move on to one last call because much of my concerns were already addressed, and I’m going to express my deepest gratitude and pray for all of us. So move on to one last call beyond mine.

[01:22:46]Jason Young:  Well, thanks, Ron. Jean, who else do we have? 

[01:22:52]Jean Setzfand:  We have all Olive from New Jersey. 

[01:22:54]Jason Young:  All right. Go ahead.

[01:23:00]Olive:  My gratitude and appreciation for AARP doing this. I was listening for the past hour and really got a lot of insight from suggestions and clarifications. My quick question is regarding the telehealth. How does that work? Not necessarily for mental health issues, but I’m a retiree and I do have hypertension. Now if my pressure skyrockets or drops very low, as it does sometimes, how do I use telehealth, that mechanism to get to a doctor or something? How does that work? 

[01:23:44]Jason Young:  Dr. Stewart, can you advise on that? 

[01:23:48]Altha Stewart:  Sure. If you are under the care of a physician now or at a clinic where you see someone regularly for your blood pressure, I would reach out to them, by phone, and advise them of what your problems are.

[01:24:03] And most places now, most clinics and doctor’s offices are providing services directly via telehealth, as Dr. Ritchie was describing earlier. They should be able to, depending on if you have a phone, a smartphone or a computer, they should be able to do their examination visits via one of those means and make up, provide a treatment plan for you on what to do next.

[01:24:31] But I would first consult my doctor or the clinic where I’m receiving services. 

[01:24:37]Jason Young:  Well, we’ve had so many tools, shared ideas, shared today that I feel energized and empowered, but I want to let our two guests who are still with us sign off by sharing with them, what’s keeping you going, what’s inspiring you?

[01:24:52] Maybe Dr. Ritchie, we can start with you. How are you making it through these days? 

[01:24:57]Elspeth Cameron Ritchie:  I am making it through by doing the job that I was trained to do. Let me close with a last concept though that I think is really important. You hear a lot about PPE, personal protective equipment, and that being masks and gloves, but think of your mental health PPE. And that’s all the suggestions that you’ve heard today — to build up your immune system, the sleep, the exercise, working out — and that is your mental health personal protective equipment. So make sure you exercise that part of your body and mind. 

[01:25:35]Jason Young:  Well, thanks for those ideas. Dr. Stewart, your thoughts?

[01:25:38]Altha Stewart:  Well, I think Dr. Ritchie said it well. The only thing I will add — there are three things I will add. 

[01:25:44] One is, break the addiction of the 24-hour news cycle. No one needs to know every minute of breaking news about this crisis. We are in this for the long haul now. And, stressing yourself out with every, looking at every station, hearing every update, watching every talking head is only adding to the pressure and stressful. So break that cycle. 

[01:26:08] The second thing is, stay present, stay in the moment. Don’t fret about what happened yesterday or worry a lot about what may happen tomorrow. Try to stay present. And today’s present is: I will be active. I will stay calm. I will use my skills of humor and physical activity to maintain my emotional stability and well-being.

[01:26:35] And the third thing is, stay connected. Just because we must stay apart does not mean that we should be alone. Use whatever means technologically or personally that you have to remain connected to people that you know, to people that you care about and that care about you and to people who understand your particular situation and are prepared to care for you, love you and relate to you no matter what.

[01:27:06]Jason Young:  Thank you for that, Dr. Stewart, and thank you both. 

[01:27:09] I just want to remind people that all of this great information is at aarp.org/coronavirus. Today’s call has been recorded and it will appear on the site and you can access it later. You can hear it on our podcast at AARP Take on Today.

[01:27:30] And don’t forget about AARP Community Connections. That’s at aarpcommunityconnections.org. That’s the service to both offer help and get help for yourself and connect with our volunteers. And then also reminding you of the Connect2Affect program that the AARP Foundation runs, which is about social isolation. That’s Connect2Affect.org.

[01:28:03] In the face of this crisis, we are providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them to protect themselves from the virus. But we’re also trying to treat the fear, anxiety and social isolation that can go with it.

[01:28:18] So all of these resources that were provided today I hope will be of help. I’d also share my favorite singer, John Prine, died two days ago, and he had the message, the song “Hello in There,” which was a great message to connect with people who may be isolated or lonely.

[01:28:34] Again, the web address for all of our materials, AARP.org/coronavirus. If the questions that you have today were not answered there, we are putting the latest updates on our website, constant news and information for you. And please tune into our next Tele-Town Hall next week, April 16, at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

[01:29:03] Thank you all so much and I wish you good mental health, good centeredness. And, this concludes our call. Take care.

 

AARP Tele-Town Hall: April 9, 2020

JASON YOUNG: Hola, soy el vicepresidente sénior de AARP, Jason Young, y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante conversación de hoy sobre su bienestar y el coronavirus.

AARP es una organización sin fines de lucro, no partidaria. Llevamos más de 60 años trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores.

Pero recientemente, nuestras vidas han cambiado de una manera surrealista. Ante la pandemia mundial de coronavirus, AARP está proporcionando información y recursos importantes para ayudarlo a usted y a todos los adultos mayores y cuidadores durante este tiempo.

Hoy hablaremos con algunos de los expertos del país que pueden compartir ideas y orientación profesional para ayudarlo a sobrellevar esto y mantenerse conectado con sus seres queridos durante este período de ansiedad. Espero que podamos usar el tiempo de hoy para apoyarnos mutuamente.

Si ya han participado en alguna de nuestras teleasambleas, saben que esto es similar a un programa de radio. Y también saben que no soy el anfitrión habitual.

Bill Walsh y Jean Setzfand, mis colegas aquí en AARP, han hecho un gran trabajo cubriendo temas como cómo administrar su dinero, proteger su salud y cuidar a sus seres queridos. Está todo guardado en línea en www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus. Así que, extrañaremos a Bill hoy, pero afortunadamente, tengo a Jean aquí conmigo.

Y la mejor parte, como siempre, es que tienen la oportunidad de hacer preguntas en vivo. Si desea hacer una pregunta sobre la conexión social y cómo se siente y sobrelleva la pandemia, presione * 3 en su teléfono y será comunicado con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y pregunta y lo pondrá en una lista para que pueda hacer su pregunta más tarde en vivo.

Para hacer su pregunta, nuevamente, presione * 3. Haremos todo lo posible hoy para encontrar un equilibrio entre encontrar la luz... Hay tanta bondad y desinterés en el mundo hoy en día, y reconocer que algunos de nosotros, tal vez la mayoría de nosotros, estamos sintiendo la tensión de algunos días y semanas oscuras en este momento.

Antes de comenzar nuestra conversación, queremos saber sobre usted mediante una breve encuesta. Tómese un momento para decirnos, ¿qué actividad está realizando principalmente para mantener las conexiones sociales durante la pandemia de coronavirus?

En el teclado de su teléfono, presione 1 si está usando llamadas telefónicas. Presione 2 en el teclado de su teléfono para videollamadas.

Presione 3 en el teclado de su teléfono para cartas, correos electrónicos o mensajes de texto.

Presione 4 en el teclado de su teléfono

para juegos o aplicaciones en línea.

Por último, presione 5 en el teclado de su teléfono si es voluntario y ayuda a otros.

Nuevamente, la pregunta de la encuesta donde pueden votar es: ¿Qué actividad está realizando principalmente para mantener las conexiones sociales con su familia, sus nietos, sus amigos, su comunidad, durante la pandemia de coronavirus?

En su teclado, presione 1 para llamadas telefónicas, 2 para videollamadas, 3 para cartas, correos electrónicos y mensajes de texto, 4 para juegos y aplicaciones en línea, o 5 si es voluntario y ayuda a otros.

Hola. Si recién se une a nosotros, soy Jason Young de AARP, y quiero darle la bienvenida a esta importante conversación sobre el impacto de la pandemia mundial de coronavirus.

Estamos hablando con expertos líderes sobre salud mental, bienestar emocional y permanecer centrados. Y responderemos sus preguntas en vivo hoy. Para hacer su pregunta, presione * 3 en su teléfono. Tenemos unas invitadas increíbles, unas expertas increíbles, y quiero presentarlas brevemente.

Ellos son Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D. Ella es la directora ejecutiva de

"El mapa del presidente para empoderar a los veteranos y poner fin a la tragedia nacional del suicidio". Es un acrónimo, en inglés PREVENTS, el grupo de trabajo PREVENTS.

También tenemos a la Dra. Altha Stewart, M.D., expresidenta de la Asociación Americana de Psiquiatría, psiquiatra en Memphis.

Y también tenemos la coronel retirada Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, M.D., presidenta del Departamento de Psiquiatría del MedStar Washington Hospital Center, uno de los hospitales de primera línea de batalla contra el coronavirus aquí en Washington, D.C.

AARP está convocando esta teleasamblea hoy, para ayudarlo a acceder a información sobre el coronavirus. Si bien vemos que AARP cumple un papel importante en el suministro de información y defensa relacionada con el coronavirus, debe tener en cuenta que la mejor fuente de información médica y de salud son los CDC.

Esos son los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades, parte del Gobierno federal, y se los puede contactar visitando www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. Eso es www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. Además, para obtener más información y recursos relacionados con los servicios de salud mental, el Gobierno federal tiene una extensión llamada Administración de Servicios de Salud Mental y Abuso de Sustancias, llamado SAMHSA, que puede visitar en www.samhsa.gov. Eso es www.samhsa.gov.

Este evento está siendo grabando y puede acceder a la grabación en www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus. Todo lo que AARP tiene para ofrecer sobre el coronavirus está en www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus. Y esta grabación estará disponible 24 horas después del evento de hoy. Si prefiere escuchar sobre la marcha, por cierto, también puede escuchar la teleasamblea en el podcast de AARP y AARP Take on Today.

Empecemos.

Hoy hablaremos con expertos sobre cómo mantenerse seguros, saludables y conectados con nuestros seres queridos durante la pandemia mundial de coronavirus.

Este es un momento difícil para muchos, y AARP está abogando incansablemente por usted, por nuestros socios y por todas las personas de 50 años o más, durante la pandemia, así como por los cuidadores. Y quiero mencionar algunas formas en que hemos estado luchando por ustedes.

Primero, AARP luchó para garantizar que las personas cuya principal fuente de ingresos es el Seguro Social, también reciban esos pagos de impacto directo que han escuchado, de hasta $1,200 bajo el reciente paquete de estímulo aprobado por el Congreso y firmado por el presidente. Y no tendrá que presentar ningún papeleo adicional para recibir estos pagos. Este es un esfuerzo continuo.

También hemos solicitado lo mismo para las personas que reciben pagos del Departamento de Asuntos de Veteranos u otros programas como SSI. Puede que usted sea una de esas personas que recientemente perdieron su trabajo, o se siente deprimido o ansioso por su trabajo, y nuestros expertos también pueden abordar eso hoy, por supuesto.

O tal vez haya escuchado la noticia esta mañana de que la tasa de desempleo ahora se estima en alrededor del 12%, la tasa más alta desde la Gran Depresión.

AARP ha presionado para ampliar los beneficios del seguro por desempleo, así como la licencia por enfermedad paga y la licencia familiar para las personas que necesitan tomarse un tiempo para cuidarse a sí mismos o a sus seres queridos.

Tal vez hoy usted es una de esas personas que no puede visitar o no puede ser visitada en un centro de atención. AARP ha defendido a las personas mayores más vulnerables al luchar para proteger a los residentes de hogares de ancianos y centros de vida asistida, ayudándolos a mantenerse conectados con los miembros de su familia.

Y hemos ayudado a asegurar un mayor financiamiento para programas críticos como Meals on Wheels. Y aunque hemos estado trabajando duro en Washington, D.C., AARP también ha tenido representantes en todo el país que también luchan por usted al trabajar junto a los encargados de la formulación de políticas estatales en una variedad de temas, como visitas a hogares de ancianos, licencias pagas de telesalud, prevención de desalojos, ejecuciones hipotecarias, desconexiones de servicios públicos, a medida que las personas pasan por dificultades financieras.

Solo quiero compartir algunos ejemplos. En Nueva Jersey, AARP instó a la aprobación de una nueva ley para extender los beneficios por incapacidad temporal y licencia familiar. En Alaska y Michigan, ayudamos a impulsar la expansión de la telesalud. Y ciertamente hablaremos más sobre eso hoy.

Y en Florida, luchamos por una nueva ley para aumentar la capacidad del sistema de salud, y específicamente permitiendo que las enfermeras practicantes hagan más para tratar a los pacientes. Todas estas son victorias importantes para los adultos mayores y para un sistema de salud bajo presión.

Pero no hubiéramos podido hacer nada de esto sin sus llamadas telefónicas, correos electrónicos y acciones.

Son los socios de AARP, los voluntarios y los adultos mayores de todo el país los que marcan la diferencia. Gracias.

Comencemos con nuestras dos primeras invitadas. Nuestra primera invitada, Dra. Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., es directora ejecutiva de una iniciativa realmente importante en este momento. Es el grupo de trabajo "El mapa del presidente para empoderar a los veteranos y poner fin a la tragedia nacional del suicidio", a veces abreviada como el grupo de trabajo PREVENTS.

Ella cofundó un programa llamado "Give an Hour", donde los profesionales voluntarios de salud mental podrían ofrecer servicios de salud mental a los miembros del servicio, veteranos y otras personas necesitadas. Y ella es una persona simplemente increíble, con mucha voluntad en su corazón, y siempre valiente. Dra. Van Dahlen, quiero agradecerle por estar con nosotros.

BARBARA VAN DAHLEN: Gracias, Jason, por la oportunidad. Y gracias a todos los oyentes, y también a las otras dos mujeres extraordinarias con quienes comparto este panel. Las conozco a ambas y las respeto muchísimo. También he estado muy conectada a AARP durante años. Tuve el privilegio de formar parte del comité asesor para el programa Connect2Affect de AARP Foundation, del que estoy segura que hablaremos más adelante hoy.

Solo para contar un poco sobre el trabajo que estoy haciendo actualmente, como explicó tan bien, PREVENTS se enfoca en empoderar a nuestros veteranos y poner fin a una tragedia nacional de suicidio. Y la forma en que lo abordamos, no podemos centrarnos solo en nuestros veteranos, para abordar realmente lo que es una crisis nacional de suicidios para todos los grupos demográficos que hemos visto en aumento.

Por lo tanto, nuestro trabajo es todo el Gobierno, toda la nación, para unirnos, coordinar y aspirar, realmente, para prevenir el suicidio en nuestro país. Lo estamos haciendo de varias maneras.

Primero, vamos a lanzar una campaña masiva de salud pública cuando estemos del otro lado de esta crisis, y estamos haciendo una serie de otras cosas.

Pero como hoy nos centramos en esta crisis, una de las cosas que PREVENTS está haciendo, es que lanzamos un programa del que hablaré más en algunas de mis respuestas, porque creo que es muy relevante, llamado #MoreThanEverBefore. Y el objetivo de esta campaña es alentar a todos en nuestra nación a prestar atención a su salud emocional y bienestar todos los días. Ahora es más crítico que nunca, debido al estrés, la tensión y los desafíos que estamos viendo como resultado de esta crisis. Y hemos contratado a embajadores, a la Segunda Dama Karen Pence, filmamos un video.

Estoy publicando un video todos los días, dando consejos e información a las personas sobre cómo monitorear su estado, formas en que todos podemos comunicarnos, apoyar y brindar atención a quienes amamos.

Puede obtener más información sobre la iniciativa #MoreThanEverBefore visitando nuestra página de Facebook, que es www.facebook.com/WeArePREVENTS. Y sabemos que AARP publicará toda esa información porque el impacto que tendrá esta crisis a la larga, sí, habrá consecuencias económicas, y sí, las personas están lidiando con consecuencias físicas, obviamente, pero, y sé que las otras dos invitadas en este programa y AARP entienden esto, es por eso que está organizando este programa, a la larga, la consecuencia de esta crisis será la salud mental para muchos de nuestros ciudadanos.

Entonces, gracias de nuevo por permitirme ser parte de esto. Es un honor para mí y anhelo responder a las preguntas que tienen sus oyentes.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias. Presentemos a nuestra segunda invitada hoy, que es cálida, emocionante, llena de esperanza y de hospitalidad sureña, la Dra. Altha Stewart, de Memphis, Tennessee.

Ella es la expresidenta inmediata de la Asociación Estadounidense de Psiquiatría, y fue la primera afroamericana en liderar esa organización.

Y recuerdo, Dra. Stewart, que yo estaba muy orgulloso cuando eso sucedió.

La conozco desde hace mucho tiempo porque a menudo decimos en las comunicaciones que no es solo el mensaje, es el mensajero. Y es una gran mensajera de todo lo relacionado con la salud mental.

Está en la University of Tennessee en el Centro de Ciencias de la Salud, donde es profesora asociada y jefa de Psiquiatría Social y Comunitaria. Ha trabajado durante más de tres décadas como CEO de grandes sistemas públicos de salud mental.

Y cielos, ha estado en algunas zonas importantes que están en las noticias hoy: en Michigan, en Pensilvania, en Nueva York, y obviamente, ahora en Memphis. Le damos la bienvenida hoy también.

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, gracias, Jason, por esa presentación tan amable y cálida. Me siento muy honrada de compartir el panel de hoy con las otras dos mujeres.

Ciertamente, Barbara y yo nos conocemos, y la Dra. Ritchie y yo nos conocemos. Y estoy contenta y realmente orgullosa de ser socia de AARP y de verlo liderar la carga, que si bien estamos separados, no estamos solos en esta crisis.

Como mencionó en la introducción, cumplo varios roles en mi trabajo en el Centro de Ciencias de la Salud de la University of Tennessee en Memphis, uno de los cuales es decano asociado sénior para la Participación en la Salud de la Comunidad, lo que significa que ahora, en medio de esta crisis en mi ciudad, estamos trabajando muy duro para asegurar que las comunidades raciales y minoritarias especialmente mal atendidas y subrepresentadas tengan acceso a pruebas y reciban buenos consejos médicos sobre cómo manejarse en medio de esta crisis, y reciban los mensajes correctos sobre por qué es muy importante aislarse y tener presente el distanciamiento social, pero también tener en cuenta nuestra salud emocional y nuestro bienestar.

En mi otro cargo, llevo a cabo un programa llamado Centro para la Salud de los Jóvenes Involucrados por la Justicia, en el que frecuentemente encuentro abuelos, parientes mayores que ahora son cuidadores primarios. Y estoy seguro de que en la membresía de AARP hay personas que se ajustan a esa categoría, que ahora se enfrentan a esta crisis, al igual que se enfrentaron a otras crisis que han superado, pero ahora con la necesidad adicional de cuidar a los niños pequeños, niños en edad escolar, niños adultos jóvenes, que ahora viven con ellos.

Creo que esta es una oportunidad maravillosa para compartir información real e importante para la población que espero esté escuchando para ayudarlos a manejar esta crisis y mantener su salud y bienestar emocional.

Y sí vengo con una dosis de hospitalidad sureña, así que les advierto a todos ahora, si arrastro las palabras entiendan que es mi forma de ser.

Gracias.

JASON YOUNG: La aguantaremos. Dra. Van Dahlen, en la mayoría de los estados, vemos que la gente lleva varias semanas recibiendo órdenes de quedarse en casa. El otro día leí que alrededor del 90% de las personas están en sus hogares.

Si bien el distanciamiento físico es una herramienta crítica para frenar la propagación del coronavirus, ha cambiado nuestras rutinas y cómo nos conectamos con nuestros seres queridos, y en muchas personas ha aumentado el estrés o la ansiedad durante este tiempo.

Probablemente muchas de las personas en esta llamada son abuelos. ¿Qué puede hacer alguien para controlar su propio estado y hacer frente a esta nueva realidad?

BARBARA VAN DAHLEN: Esa es una pregunta excelente, y creo que todos nos podemos sentir identificados. Todos estamos experimentando cambios significativos, interrupciones en nuestras vidas. Y como resultado, todos estamos experimentando estrés. Y creo que una de las cosas que estamos viendo y escuchando es que esto está cambiando con el tiempo.

Diferentes emociones, diferentes experiencias que podríamos vivir después de la primera semana, luego viene la segunda semana y diferentes cosas que escuchamos en las noticias, si nuestra ciudad podría ser uno de los focos, etc.

Lo primero que es realmente muy importante es que todos comprendamos es que la ansiedad, los miedos, la ira, el aburrimiento... Supe de personas que trataban de averiguar qué hacer durante este tiempo en el que están limitados.

Estos sentimientos son muy normales, son muy humanos. Los humanos a veces podemos ser duros con nosotros mismos. Nos sentimos frustrados o irritados con nosotros mismos, y podemos ser duros o etiquetarnos de maneras más críticas.

Entonces, le recuerdo a la gente, estos sentimientos son muy comprensibles, muy normales. Eso es realmente importante.

Segundo, conéctese con cómo se siente todos los días. De esto se trata nuestra campaña #MoreThanEverBefore. Más que nunca, debemos prestar atención a nuestra salud y bienestar emocional. Es tan importante como lavarnos las manos y mantener la distancia física. Logramos eso conectándonos con nosotros mismos.

Por lo general, somos bastante buenos para darnos cuenta: "Oh, Dios, estoy más susceptible que de costumbre" o "Estoy más enojado esta tarde que por la mañana. ¿Qué está pasando? ¿Qué sucede?" O "estoy triste."

El otro día, estaba hablando con mi hija sobre una historia en las noticias que había escuchado y que era triste, pero comencé a llorar de una manera que me sorprendió, y me hizo dar cuenta de que tengo muchos sentimientos que están a flor de piel y listos para desbordarse.

Alentar a las personas a sintonizarse con ellos mismos, alentar a las personas a compartir con sus seres queridos cómo se encuentran. Puede ser que comparta con alguien con quien está compartiendo su casa en este momento.

Puede ser un cuidador. Puede ser un miembro de la familia. Puede ser por mensaje de texto. Puede ser por teléfono. Compartir es una parte muy importante de estar conectado. Es algo tan saludable que hacemos el uno por el otro, el uno con el otro. Y es bidireccional.

Puede compartir con un nieto o una nieta cómo se siente, y es igualmente de valioso para ambos escuchar eso, y ellos pueden compartir con usted cómo están ellos.

Este es realmente un buen momento para apoyar a los demás y recibir apoyo, ya que nos ayuda a recordar que no estamos solos.

Otra cosa que podemos hacer cuando estamos luchando con esta sensación de que estamos ansiosos o preocupados o temerosos, es acudir a lo que sabe que es útil para usted.

Eso podría ser leer. Puede ser música. Podría ser rezar. De nuevo, comunicarse con las personas. Podría ser ver su película favorita que le haga reír. Saber lo que funciona para usted, compartir lo que funciona para usted con los demás, conectarse con las personas a través de estos otros mecanismos.

Una de las cosas que he visto en mi propio vecindario que me encanta es que llevo a nuestra perra a dar... En realidad, es un cachorro, así que lleva trabajo en sí. Pero la saco, y todos mantienen su distancia, están sentados en sus porches, pero asentimos la cabeza, sonreímos. Hay calidez disponible para las personas en este momento. Pero si no la buscamos, es posible que no la sintamos.

Entonces, contactarse a través de otras herramientas, otros mecanismos y volver al lugar donde comencé, es decir, asegurarse de sintonizarse con uno mismo. Y si otros comparten con usted que están un poco preocupados, que parece más triste, mantenga esa conversación sobre por qué podría ser que siente eso o por qué podría ser preocupante.

Puede notar un fuerte enfoque en asegurarse de no aislarse en sí mismo. Es posible que estemos físicamente aislados, que nos alejemos de las personas que nos importan, pero no hace falta estar desconectados social o emocionalmente durante este tiempo.

JASON YOUNG: Creo que ese es un gran consejo. Y mencionó en su presentación, su participación anterior en la campaña Connect2Affect de AARP Foundation, por lo que solo quiero compartir eso con nuestros oyentes. Hay algo llamado Connect2Affect, eso es Connect2Affect.

Y es una plataforma que presenta recursos, hay un cuestionario que puede completar, una autoevaluación. Y hace preguntas que realmente comprenden el riesgo que corre de estar aislado y sentirse solo, sentirse desconectado y luego encontrar algunas formas prácticas... Yo mismo he hecho la evaluación. Puede hacerla y luego obtener formas prácticas de reconectarse con su comunidad, incluidos algunos voluntarios virtuales y otras cosas que quizás desee considerar, ya que sabemos que el mundo ha cambiado.

Dra. Stewart, quiero recurrir a usted para nuestra segunda pregunta. Uno de los consejos que hemos visto para controlar el estrés es mantenerse físicamente activo, salir a pasear al perro. ¿Por qué es esto crítico? ¿Y qué consejos ofreces cuando algunas de nuestras instalaciones favoritas, centros comunitarios, centros para personas mayores, etc. cierran?

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, primero, quiero repetir algo que la Dra. Van Dahlen dijo, que debemos tener en cuenta el hecho de que estamos teniendo esta conversación sobre nuestro bienestar emocional, porque escuchamos que la gente siente que está perdiendo la cabeza porque están ansiosos, temerosos o preocupados todo el tiempo.

Está bien estar preocupado. Estas son cosas muy reales de las que preocuparse, y eso no es una señal de que esté "perdiendo la cabeza", como alguien me preguntó. Quiero explayar sobre eso.

Y creo que una de las razones por las que estamos aconsejando a las personas que se vuelvan físicamente activas, incluso si no lo eran antes, y es que hay cosas que nuestro cuerpo hace cuando estamos físicamente activos que apoyan un bienestar emocional mejorado y más positivo.

Todo el mundo ha oído hablar de las endorfinas y todas esas otras cosas que realmente le levantan el ánimo a uno. Son los antidepresivos naturales del cuerpo.

Cuando se mueve, cuando es físicamente activo, genera ciertas cosas en su cuerpo que realmente lo ayudan a sentirse mejor.

Si no está físicamente activo, por ejemplo, caminar, si no puede salir por donde vive o su movilidad es limitada, camine por su casa. Si tiene un pasillo o una habitación grande, camine por ese perímetro.

Simplemente dele la vuelta unas cuatro o cinco veces, asegurándose de estar respirando y moviéndose, de estar seguro, por supuesto. Y si tiene problemas de movilidad, siempre recomendamos que lo hablen con su médico para asegurarse de que esté bien.

Pero puede caminar en su casa. Si tiene escalones y puede salir, dos o tres escalones para subir al porche delantero, subirlos y bajarlos varias veces, de nuevo, a salvo, bajo la autorización de un médico, pero eso le permite estar físicamente activo y lo mantiene pensando y moviéndose de manera que respalda una mejor salud y bienestar general.

Algunas de las otras cosas que alentamos a las personas a hacer tienen que ver con prestar atención cuando están sentados durante mucho tiempo, particularmente aquellos de nosotros que estamos trabajando en casa frente a nuestras computadoras, de tomarse descansos para estirar o respirar profundamente, para rotar los tobillos, al igual que lo hacemos para prevenir la trombosis venosa profunda en un largo viaje en avión.

Gire sus tobillos. Mueva hacia adelante y hacia atrás su pierna y su pie. Haga giros sueltos con sus brazos para que se muevan y aflojarlos. Haga estiramientos de hombros.

Estas son cosas que son fáciles de hacer. La mayoría de la gente puede hacerlo. Y no debe preocuparse por perder su tiempo en el gimnasio si esa era una de sus rutinas normales.

También es muy bueno que las personas en nuestro grupo de edad, los de más de 50 años, comprendamos que si tenemos limitaciones en nuestra capacidad debido a artritis o problemas ambulatorios o algo así, podemos hacer muchas de estas cosas sentados cómodamente en una silla y aún obtener todos los beneficios.

Y respecto a la interacción social, puede que tengamos que estar separados, pero no tenemos que estar socialmente aislados. Hablar y relacionarse con las personas, y tal vez compartir unos pasos con un amigo o un pariente que también está limitado en lo que puede hacer, es una forma de socializar y realizar su actividad física al mismo tiempo.

JASON YOUNG: Me encanta esa idea. Sé que algunas personas están volviendo a conectarse en línea y viendo algunos videos de Denise Austin que hicimos hace un par de años y que puede hacer en su casa, en su departamento. Y sé que Jane Fonda ha estado promocionando algunos de sus viejos videos, muy divertido. Pero buen consejo.

También un amigo bromeó el otro día, Dra. Stewart, le gustará esto. Dijo que no estaba seguro de a dónde iría para Pascua, si a la sala de estar o el dormitorio.

ALTHA STEWART: [RISAS] Y ese es el punto, sí. Sí, ese es el punto. Lo que tenga disponible, úselo para estar físicamente activo. Ese es el punto.

JASON YOUNG: Correcto, en casa. Dra. Van Dahlen, este es un tema difícil de discutir, y en realidad tiene uno de los trabajos más difíciles del país, trabajar con el suicidio de veteranos, así que sé que piensa en las personas que pierden a sus seres queridos.

Pero este es un momento en el que escuchamos a personas que pierden a sus seres queridos por cualquier razón, tal vez sea COVID-19, pero tal vez sea alguna otra condición, y no puedan estar con su familia durante los últimos días o en un funeral, y posteriormente no pueden hacer el duelo de la manera que les parezca correcta.

Y eso hace que una situación terrible sea aún peor. ¿Qué puede hacer alguien que está experimentando una pérdida para hacerle frente? ¿Y tiene algún recurso?

BARBARA VAN DAHLEN: Jason, esa es una pregunta tan importante en este momento. Las historias que estamos escuchando son desgarradoras, simplemente desgarradoras. Y de nuevo, vuelvo a que Altha y yo, en cierto modo, somos un gran equipo porque seguimos enfatizando, todos estos fuertes sentimientos que las personas tienen son absolutamente comprensibles y normales durante este momento tan anormal que vivimos

en nuestra nación y en todo el mundo.

Estas pérdidas están ocurriendo, como bien has dicho, a veces debido a COVID-19, a veces por otras razones. Pero significa que la familia no puede reunirse. Tenemos inquietudes, tengo inquietudes, sé que otros profesionales de la salud mental tienen inquietudes sobre el impacto a largo plazo que tendrán algunas de estas pérdidas.

Hay un término que nosotros usamos en el campo de la salud mental. Se llama "duelo complicado". Y lo que eso significa es que nosotros, los humanos, cuando perdemos a alguien, pasamos por un proceso de duelo.

Pero si algo interfiere con nuestra capacidad de duelo como normalmente lo haríamos, puede dejar algunos desafíos duraderos. En realidad, puede interferir con la salud emocional y el bienestar de la persona que necesita hacer el duelo.

Una de las cosas que quiero decir es que, para aquellos que escuchan, que tal vez hayan experimentado esto, o que puedan experimentar esto durante este tiempo, asegúrense, nuevamente, de prestar atención y hablen con las personas que aman sobre esto.

Si fuera a sentir eso de, "Bueno, todavía estoy sintiendo esta abrumadora tristeza y desesperación, pérdida o dolor", más de lo que usted sentiría, no de lo que piensa que otra persona sentiría, sino de lo que usted sentiría, por favor habla con amigos. Esto puede ser meses más adelante.

A lo que voy es que esto puede tener una consecuencia a largo plazo. Primero hay que reconocer eso. Lo segundo es comprender que, mientras lidiamos con este aislamiento físico, las personas ya están siendo increíblemente innovadoras sobre cómo pueden recordar a los seres queridos que están perdiendo durante este tiempo, nuevamente, utilizando ya sea plataformas que permiten videollamadas.

He escuchado de personas que se reúnen para recordar a un ser querido, que comparten. Están llorando juntos. Están creando otras oportunidades para futuros monumentos conmemorativos que planean tener.

Están reuniendo imágenes y están escribiendo un diario sobre el individuo, para permitirse pasar por el proceso, que es muy saludable y muy importante, recordar, permitirnos estar completamente tristes.

A veces, las personas usan las tradiciones que establecemos en torno a los funerales, entierros y memoriales para dejarse llevar y estar tristes y llorar.

Es posible que no tenga esa opción ahora que puede que no estén esas tradiciones formales. Entonces, permitirse llorar, y eso puede significar sacar fotos intencionalmente o escuchar música o mirar cosas que ayuden a estimular los recuerdos de la persona que está velando.

Será un desafío durante este tiempo, pero es muy importante que hagamos todo lo posible para trabajar con nuestras propias limitaciones físicas, involucrar a otros y usar las herramientas que tenemos. Y siempre es saludable, nos ayuda mucho cuando nos acercamos a los demás.

Si está lidiando con una pérdida, y hay alguien en su familia o comunidad que comparte esa pérdida, al comunicarse y ofrecer la oportunidad de hablar, compartir y apoyarse mutuamente, eso también es bueno para uno.

JASON YOUNG: Sí. Uh, esa es una pregunta difícil. Dra. Stewart, la atención de la salud mental siempre ha tenido algunos desafíos en este país. Y tengo curiosidad por saber si el coronavirus ha traído a la superficie algunos de esos desafíos existentes.

Y debido a que queremos empoderar a las personas que están escuchando hoy, tal vez algunas ideas sobre lo que pueden hacer frente a esos desafíos.

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, de nuevo, esa es una excelente pregunta. Y me alegra que lo pregunte. Uno de los problemas, aparte de la discusión original que tuvimos sobre hacer frente a este momento estresante, este un tema, creo, que presenta una conversación considerable porque el sistema de tratamiento de salud mental ya fue desafiado antes del virus, de la pandemia.

Y ahora, ante la imposibilidad de acceder a la atención directa cara a cara, tener que depender más de la tecnología para llevar a cabo nuestras sesiones, para brindar apoyo y servicios, para mantener contacto. Que los proveedores de atención médica terapéutica traten a las personas, es un desafío cada vez mayor para un sistema ya tenso y estresado.

Una de las cosas que creo que todos deberíamos tener en cuenta es que las personas con enfermedades mentales sufren, no solo la enfermedad, sino también el estigma asociado con la enfermedad.

Y en momentos en que expresar preocupación y miedo puede ser visto por las personas que los cuidan como una manifestación de su enfermedad, en oposición al miedo real por el que todos nos sentimos ansiosos y estresados, tenemos que ayudar a los miembros de la familia, seres queridos y cuidadores a comprender que las personas con enfermedades mentales están respondiendo de manera muy similar a todos los demás en la sociedad, ante los desafíos reales que enfrentamos hoy en día en torno a lo desconocido, a no poder controlar las cosas, al ciclo de noticias de 24 horas que puede en sí mismo provocar ansiedad.

Lo que espero que resulte de esta crisis, esta desafortunada y trágica crisis, para las personas con enfermedades mentales, es que las personas tengan una mejor comprensión, el público en general tenga una mejor comprensión de sus necesidades, una capacidad de querer acercarse y brindar apoyo y comodidad, ya que muchos de los sistemas tradicionales de apoyo y servicio realmente no pueden atenderlos de la misma manera, y pueda asegurar a las personas con enfermedades mentales, que pueden estar viviendo en sus propios hogares, que pueden estar viviendo en programas residenciales y viviendas con apoyo, que pueden estar con miembros de la familia que están siendo evaluados y se estresan a causa de sus propios desafíos ante esto, que ayude a las personas a ser más empáticas con respecto a algunas de sus preocupaciones y algunas de sus necesidades de apoyo y servicio.

También creo que, debido a que se trata de un trastorno estigmatizado, un trastorno médico, tendremos que lidiar, durante esta crisis, con parte de ese estigma que impide que las personas se expongan, para comprender la importancia basada en su vulnerabilidad, porque muchas de las personas con enfermedades mentales tienen afecciones médicas subyacentes que pueden o no estar recibiendo tratamiento.

Las personas que tienen diabetes, hipertensión, todas las condiciones subyacentes de las que hablamos, en las personas que son vulnerables, especialmente a este virus, tenemos que tener en cuenta que las personas con enfermedades mentales, aquellos de nosotros que los cuidamos, y nos preocupamos por ellos, tenemos que asegurarnos de que ellos estén siguiendo los mismos consejos establecidos por la salud pública, que le pedimos a otras personas que sigan.

Mantener la distancia social, usar mascarillas en público, todas esas cosas tienen que ser alentadas en personas con enfermedades mentales que pueden no estar recibiendo el mensaje de la misma manera que otros, sobre la importancia de estas cosas.

Y aquellos de nosotros que los cuidamos, y nos preocupamos por ellos, debemos ayudarlos a entender eso.

Tenemos que tener en cuenta el hecho de que muchas personas con enfermedades mentales siguen sin tener un hogar, encarceladas o alejadas de la sociedad.

Y ahora, más que nunca, aquellos que trabajan como voluntarios en una iglesia o en una organización sin fines de lucro, deben tomar conciencia de las necesidades de este grupo particular de personas y preguntarles cosas. ¿Necesitas algo? ¿Estás tomando tu medicina? ¿Puedes ir a la farmacia a recoger tus medicamentos?

Este es el momento en que creo que todos tenemos que extendernos un poco más porque este es un grupo particular de personas que siempre necesitan nuestra ayuda y apoyo, y que lo necesitan ahora más que nunca.

JASON YOUNG: Bueno, este es un buen momento para recordarles a nuestros oyentes de hoy que si tienen alguna pregunta que les gustaría hacerle a la Dra. Stewart o a la Dra. Van Dahlen, pueden presionar * 3 en su teléfono.

Nuevamente, presione * 3 en su teléfono, y eso lo pondrá en la lista.

Nos estamos preparando para responder preguntas. Dra. Stewart, sus últimos comentarios me recuerdan que los servicios de telesalud están cada vez más disponibles. Algunas terapias grupales y grupos de apoyo se encuentran en línea.

Ese podría ser un buen recurso para tener en cuenta. Y quiero recordarle a la gente sobre la herramienta de AARP Foundation que era www.connect2affect.org. Eso es www.connect2affect.org. Www.connect2affect.org.

Ahora vamos a responder sus preguntas. Y la Dra. Van Dahlen y la Dra. Stewart las responderán. Presione * 3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con el personal de AARP. Puede compartir su pregunta y será puesto en la lista.

Y también tenemos en línea con nosotros a mi colega Jean Setzfand, vicepresidenta sénior de programas de AARP. Jean organizará las llamadas y ayudará a facilitarlas.

Solo quiero darle la bienvenida a Jean a nuestra teleasamblea informativa. Hola Jean

JEAN SETZFAND: Hola, Jason. Encantada de estar aquí contigo hoy.

JASON YOUNG: Jean, creo que es una conversación increíblemente importante la que usted y su equipo han organizado hoy. Y, por supuesto, vamos a atender las llamadas de nuestros oyentes.

También quiero recordarle a la gente que en unos momentos, se unirá a nosotros otra experta invitada, una mujer que los va a impresionar por completo después de sus 24 años en uniforme y un amplio conocimiento de la atención de salud mental tanto de la milicia como de veteranos, y finalmente del sistema de salud mental más amplio en general, y será muy útil para responder sus preguntas.

Sin embargo, por ahora vamos a responder preguntas para la Dra. Stewart y la Dra. Van Dahlen.

Jean, ¿tiene alguna pregunta en la lista ya?

JEAN SETZFAND: Así es. Tenemos bastantes llamadas. La primera es de Lorraine de Nueva York.

LORENA: Sí, hola. Sí, hola. Tengo ataques de pánico muy fuertes. Y quería saber, ¿hay algún lugar al que podamos llamar o alguien que pueda ayudarnos? Cuando me pongo muy, muy mal, parece que no puedo volver a centrarme. ¿Y hay un número al que podamos llamar, o alguien con quien podamos hablar cuando sucedan estas cosas?

JASON YOUNG: Lorraine, siento mucho escuchar que está experimentando eso. Y, por supuesto, está en Nueva York en medio de todo. Dra. Stewart, ¿tiene algún consejo sobre cómo Lorraine podría abordar su situación?

ALTHA STEWART: Sí. Y Lorraine, yo también lamento que esto haya resultado en que tenga problemas adicionales. Si tiene un terapeuta actualmente, yo diría que primero contacte a esa persona.

Si no estaba viendo a alguien antes de esto, y por lo tanto no tiene una conexión con nadie en la comunidad de tratamiento de salud mental, Nueva York tiene una red muy extensa de líneas directas y líneas de crisis de salud mental.

No sé el número o el sitio web donde comunicarse. Pero si busca lo que pueda proporcionar su directorio telefónico local, si busca la línea de crisis de salud mental o la línea de mensajes de texto de crisis, o algo así, debería encontrar los nombres y la información de contacto de su línea directa local de crisis.

También hay una línea nacional de crisis de salud mental. Y lo siento mucho, no dispongo de esa información.

Pero estoy segura de que antes de finalizar la llamada, alguien puede proporcionar eso. O se puede proporcionar a través de la estación de recursos AARP.

JASON YOUNG: Absolutamente. Y quiero compartir la línea nacional para la prevención del suicidio. Esa línea está disponible 24/7. Es un soporte gratuito y confidencial para personas angustiadas, prevención, crisis, ese tipo de cosas, o para sus seres queridos. Y el número es 800-273-TALK. Eso es 800-273-8255.

ALTHA STEWART: La otra cosa que le diría a la oyente es que si tiene un amigo o ser querido con quien ha compartido este problema de ataques de pánico, le pediría que hable con ellos y se mantenga en contacto con ellos, porque necesita tener a alguien.

Y aunque se comunique con las líneas directas y las líneas de crisis, necesita tener a alguien que sepa que hace falta controlarlo, que debe hablar con usted, que debe llamarlo.

Y deberían esperar que usted los llame, porque no queremos que esté aislada en medio de estos ataques de pánico, y en medio de una situación muy real.

Además, le aconsejaría que no mire mucho las noticias. Eso tiende a desencadenar y hacer que las personas estén más ansiosas. Y en este momento, las cosas que debe hacer para mantener la calma son las cosas que estoy segura de que ya sabe, en términos de relajación y respiración profunda, y si medita.

Este es el momento de aprovechar realmente todas esas herramientas de las que dispone para ayudarla a manejar los ataques hasta que pueda obtener ayuda profesional de alguien.

Pero le deseo toda la suerte para pasar esto.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias, Dra. Stewart. Jean, ¿quién sigue?

JEAN SETZFAND: El siguiente llamado es de Debra, que llama desde Virginia.

JASON YOUNG: Debra, adelante.

DEBRA: Sí. Tengo una pregunta que AARP, Foundation Connect2Affect, podría responder. Parece que hay mucha telemedicina dando vueltas, y lo ha habido, incluso antes de esto.

Pero, ¿qué pasa si no tiene una conexión con un psiquiatra o un consejero

para problemas de salud mental como la depresión y la ansiedad? ¿Se ofrecen servicios que se puedan hacer desde casa?

Tengo 66 años. Realmente no quiero tener que ir a ningún lado. Y me pregunto si parte de esa información está en ese sitio web.

Sé a quién llamaría si tuviera a uno, pero no los he visto en años. Ni siquiera sé si están abiertos. Pero me pregunto sobre cosas en línea, o alguna forma de conectarme y hablar con alguien.

JASON YOUNG: Claro, Debra. Le daremos una respuesta. También puedo decirle que consulte... Su atención primaria a menudo puede

guiarla hacia el tipo correcto de ayuda.

Y la Línea nacional para la prevención del suicidio que mencioné, si tiene ese tipo de sentimientos en este momento, también ofrece chat en línea. Pero Dra. Van Dahlen, ¿tiene alguna idea para Debra?

BARBARA VAN DAHLEN: Sí. Y Debra, esa es una buena pregunta. Y muchas de las cosas que Altha estaba sugiriendo para Lorraine también se aplican aquí, que el sitio web de su condado debería tener.

El sitio web de su estado y condado también debe tener recursos locales que ofrezcan telesalud.

Sé, por ejemplo, que el Departamento de Asuntos de Veteranos, gran parte de su atención de salud mental ahora se transfirió a la telesalud porque, como usted, no queremos estar afuera.

Queremos hacer lo que se supone que debemos hacer, que es quedarnos en casa. Si tiene un esfuerzo 211 en su comunidad, 211 es otro recurso que a menudo tiene organizaciones locales, servicios locales que brindan atención de salud mental. Ahora hay una serie de compañías de aplicaciones móviles y en línea que ofrecen aplicaciones de telesalud.

Y sé que la Dra. Ritchie va a hablar sobre esto en el próximo segmento, pero para que la gente sepa, sabemos que estas nuevas aplicaciones son realmente muy efectivas y muy útiles.

Jason mencionó la función de texto. Y sabemos que enviarse mensajes de texto con un terapeuta, con un consejero es tan útil como lo es la telesalud, en donde pueden verse ente sí. Y algunos de estos... Obviamente, investigue o pregúntele a otras personas, mire las reseñas, pero existen, y algunas tienen buena reputación. Hay una en la que Michael Phelps es portavoz. Conozco a Michael y conozco el trabajo, sé que le importa profundamente esto.

Yo diría que 211, los sitios web de su estado y condado deberían tener buenas referencias, buenos recursos. SAMHSA es una agencia gubernamental que Jason mencionó, y también tendrán formas de ayudarla a encontrar servicios locales.

En nuestra página de Facebook también tendremos recursos. Sé que AARP también tendrá. Con suerte, con todo eso, podrá obtener una buena ayuda para identificar lugares para probar, porque existen y son efectivos.

ALTHA STEWART: Jason, si pudiera, mi excelente personal me ha enviado algunos de los números que me gustaría compartir si puede ser, para que las personas tengan una amplia gama de opciones sobre cómo acceder a la ayuda, dependiendo de dónde se encuentren.

JASON YOUNG: Claro.

ALTHA STEWART: Se ha creado una línea nacional de socorro. Y el número es 800-985-5990. 800-985-5990. También está la Ayuda de NAMI en una línea de crisis, en la que puede enviar las letras NAMI al 741-741. NAMI tiene una línea de ayuda. Y el número es 800-950-6264. 800-950-6264, solo para que las personas tengan opciones si no tienen el 211, o no tienen un vasto recurso en su área local.

Estas son oportunidades y opciones para que las personas al menos llamen y hablen con alguien y obtengan orientación si es necesario.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias, Dra. Stewart. NAMI es la Alianza Nacional de Enfermedades Mentales. Si no han oído hablar de ellos antes, son un grupo realmente excepcional y se encuentran en muchas comunidades en todo el país.

Antes de continuar, Dra. Van Dahlen, entiendo que debe presentarse a una importante reunión en la Casa Blanca.

Por lo tanto, quiero darle la oportunidad de compartir cualquier pensamiento final antes de que tenga que enfilar hacia su importante trabajo.

BARBARA VAN DAHLEN: Oh, bueno, Jason, gracias. En realidad no debo irme todavía. Puedo quedarme. Tengo que atender una llamada de la Casa Blanca aproximadamente 10 minutos pasada la hora. Puedo terminar ahora o quedarme si eso tiene sentido, de cualquier manera.

JASON YOUNG: Bueno, déjame compartir los resultados de la encuesta previa.

Les pedimos que nos dijeran cómo se mantienen en contacto con su red durante estos tiempos difíciles. Y el 59% de ustedes dijeron que están manteniendo llamadas telefónicas para mantener sus conexiones sociales.

El 22% seleccionaron cartas, correos electrónicos y mensajes de texto. Es genial que las personas estén utilizando tecnología nueva y antigua para mantenerse en contacto.

También quiero compartir Mi Comunidad con AARP. Esta es una nueva plataforma que tenemos. A veces, escuchar una voz amigable puede ayudar en tiempos difíciles.

Esto no es atención de salud mental. Estos son voluntarios disponibles en Mi Comunidad con AARP. Es un servicio gratuito para todos los adultos mayores de 18 años. Cuenta con voluntarios capacitados. Y están preparados para brindar una llamada amigable y saludar.

Si desearía hablar con alguien, están disponibles de lunes a viernes, de 9:00 a.m. a 5:00 p.m., hora del este.

Eso es de lunes a viernes, de 9:00 a.m. a 5:00 p.m., hora del este.

Y están en 888-281-0145. Eso es 888-281-0145.

Déjenos su información y nuestros voluntarios se pondrán en contacto con usted. Y si lo prefiere, también puede configurar una llamada recurrente, una llamada, digamos, todos los miércoles a las 2:00 PM como control.

Este es, nuevamente, un servicio gratuito, independientemente de si es socio de AARP o no. También tenemos algunas capacidades bilingües, por lo que podemos ofrecer esos servicios en español.

Y una vez más, ese número de teléfono es 888-281-0145.

Antes de despedirnos de la Dra. Van Dahlen, quiero presentar a una de sus colegas, también muy conocedora de los veteranos y los problemas militares de salud mental, la Dra. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, MD.

Es psiquiatra, presidenta del Departamento de Psiquiatría de MedStar Centro hospitalario de Washington. Y tengo que decirles que conozco a Cam desde hace mucho tiempo, y ella es fuerte, sabe lo que hace y pasó 24 años en uniforme. Ahora está en primera línea, pensando en las intersecciones de salud mental con enfermedades infecciosas, como el coronavirus.

Se retiró del Ejército de EE.UU. en el 2010, pero había pasado sus últimos cinco años en uniforme como la principal defensora de la salud mental en la oficina del Cirujano General del Ejército.

Dra. Ritchie, bienvenida.

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Hola. Es un placer estar aquí. Como ha dicho, estamos en primera línea y eso es muy emocionante. Siento que he entrenado toda mi vida para hacer esto. Siempre me ha interesado la intersección entre las enfermedades infecciosas y la salud mental.

Y también es, obviamente, bastante aterrador cómo nuestros hospitales, y otros hospitales se llenan de pacientes con COVID. Estoy trabajando bastante con el personal aquí, tratando de ayudarlos a manejar la ansiedad.

Y como todos los demás, lo hago mejor cuando estoy concentrada y puedo hacer mi trabajo, pero me levanto a las 2:00 a.m. y digo: "Oh, no, todos vamos a morir". Y luego me doy cuenta, bueno, sí, todos vamos a morir. Eso es parte de la condición humana. Pero mientras tanto, deben hacer su trabajo y deben hacerlo bien.

Y eso me ayuda a concentrarme, para lo que sea que valga para el grupo.

JASON YOUNG: Bueno, me alegra mucho que esté aquí. Hemos visto un aumento en el interés en usar la telesalud en esta crisis. Y tengo entendido que la Administración de Salud de Veteranos es un verdadero líder en el uso de la telesalud, incluida la salud mental.

Sé que ya no trabaja con el VA, pero tiene mucho conocimiento de ese mundo. Y, obviamente, la telesalud ahora también forma parte de Medicare. Pero, ¿puede explicar cómo funciona eso? ¿Cómo se usa?

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Claro. Permítanme regresar un poco en el tiempo, porque en realidad utilicé la telesalud por primera vez cuando

fui enviada a Somalia a principios de los 90. En realidad, se utiliza hace mucho en el ejército porque, por ejemplo, si estabas en el mar en un barco, era posible que no tengas un especialista allí, pero podías llamar o, en los primeros días, tomarías fotografías, digamos, de un sarpullido extraño, y se las enviarías a Walter Reed, y luego harías telesalud.

En VA, ha progresado mucho. Muchos veteranos viven en zonas rurales. Y realmente han perfeccionado la tecnología. Pero la tecnología también ha mejorado. Una de las formas en que fue una ventaja para el VA es que los practicantes no necesitaban tener la misma licencia médica del estado del paciente.

En otras palabras, en el resto de los estados, si estaba atendiendo a un paciente en Maryland y estaba en D.C., tenía que tener una licencia médica de Maryland.

Ahora, en las últimas dos semanas, hemos visto avances increíbles, tanto en tecnología como en dejar de tener esas reglas sobre la licencia médica.

Ahora sí, desde mi teléfono, hago videos para hablar con los pacientes en su teléfono por video.

Ahora, a veces no saben cómo hacer eso, y entonces hacemos una típica llamada telefónica. Pero muchas personas sienten que ver la cara de su médico es muy tranquilizador, con solo recordar que algunas cosas siguen iguales.

Por lo tanto, recomendaría la tecnología de video si pueden, pero sino, una llamada telefónica. Sin embargo, no me pregunten sobre tecnologías de video particulares porque todos lo hacen de manera ligeramente diferente. Si les dijera lo que estaba haciendo, probablemente no se transmitiría muy bien.

JASON YOUNG: Claro. Bueno, estoy interesado en profundizar un poco más porque tanto usted como la Dra. Van Dahlen han brindado un cuidado y liderazgo extraordinarios a los miembros de los servicios armados.

Y, por supuesto, AARP es una organización de membresía muy grande, por lo que, casi por accidente, tenemos muchos socios que son veteranos del ejército.

Las preocupaciones de las tropas, las preocupaciones de los veteranos serán siempre las preocupaciones de AARP.

Quiero volver a la Dra. Van Dahlen antes de que tengamos que dejarla ir. Se me ocurre, Dra. Van Dahlen, que los signos y síntomas de COVID-19 son cada vez más conocidos: fiebre, tos seca, falta de aliento, pérdida del gusto y el olfato, mientras que a veces los efectos psicológicos son un poco más invisibles. Y me preguntaba si nos darías un poco de sabiduría

de despedida sobre cómo abordar eso.

BARBARA VAN DAHLEN: Gracias Jason. Y gracias por permitirme que me quede un rato.

Esta es una conversación tan importante, y agradezco mucho que AARP organice este foro y nos permita tener la oportunidad de compartir. Tiene toda la razón en que no siempre reconocemos el impacto, los efectos del estrés, la tensión, lo que nos sucede mientras sucede.

Y esto es algo que está exactamente en el corazón y el alma de nuestra campaña #MoreThanEverBefore. Realmente se trata de hacer que todos presten atención todos los días, se sintonicen. Y todos continuamos aprendiendo durante toda nuestra vida cómo nos afecta lo que nos sucede, ya sea que provenga del exterior, como de nuestros propios pensamientos.

Estoy pensando en Lorraine, la persona que llamó, y su angustia y

los ataques de pánico, lo que me pone muy triste por ella. Y todos estamos muy cerca de esa ansiedad y ese miedo.

Y solo como una conexión a eso, volviendo a Lorraine, ella es consciente. Ella entiende, cuando está teniendo un ataque de pánico, cómo se ve, cómo se siente. Y bien por ella porque ese es el primer paso para poder responder a eso.

Es posible que otras personas que nunca hayan experimentado un ataque de pánico no entiendan. Cuando sienten presión en el pecho, cuando tienen dificultad para respirar, cuando sus pensamientos están acelerados.

Pueden estar confundidos y no estar seguros. ¿Que es esto? ¿Estoy teniendo un infarto? ¿Es este un síntoma de COVID-19?

Y de nuevo, es totalmente normal que nos preguntemos esas cosas. Y alentaría a cualquiera, obviamente que tenga esos síntomas, a llamar, comunicarse con su médico, su médico de atención primaria, y tener esa conversación.

Pero a veces eso es ansiedad. A veces ese es el comienzo de lo que podría convertirse en un ataque de pánico en toda regla. Si no ha tenido ansiedad a este nivel antes, es posible que no esté familiarizado con cómo es.

La otra cosa que podríamos notar, es tener problemas para dormir. Y si ya de por sí somos personas que nos cuesta dormir, podría exacerbarse. Y tal vez intente averiguar, ¿por qué tengo más problemas de lo habitual para conciliar el sueño? ¿O por qué me estoy despertando? Bien podría ser que es el estrés, la ansiedad, la preocupación, la tristeza. Esos son los momentos para ver qué tenemos en nuestra caja de herramientas de bienestar emocional.

Me levanto. Si tengo problemas para dormir, me levanto, trato de escribir algunos pensamientos para sacarlos de mi cabeza y ponerlos en papel. A veces eso me permite volver a dormir.

Mi esposo se levanta, y se pone a leer. Leerá uno de los libros que está leyendo, y eso lo ayuda a volver a dormir. Piensa en lo que funciona para usted si así lo ve.

Otra cosa que he estado escuchando mucho es que la gente se siente muy letárgica, muy pesada, físicamente pesada. Es difícil moverse. Vuelvo a la gran recomendación de Altha de intentar moverse. Ese es un gran antídoto.

Nuestro cuerpo crea productos químicos maravillosos que nos ayudan cuando nos movemos, esas endorfinas. Entonces, tratar de moverse.

Otra herramienta que está disponible para todos nosotros, es la risa. Cuando nos reímos, se liberan grandes químicos en nuestros cerebros. Del mismo modo, a veces un buen llanto es útil para nosotros. Los bebés lloran y lloran y lloran. Hay algo más allá de que están expresando su angustia, su frustración. Hay algo muy apropiado e importante sobre esa válvula.

Puede sentirte pesado. Puede tener dificultad para concentrarte. Puede estar más irritable y agitado. Y puede notar que realmente no se está cuidando tan bien como lo haría normalmente.

Y es muy, muy importante no dejar pasar eso. Por lo tanto, asegúrese de mantenerse en su rutina. Levántese a la hora de siempre.

Asegúrese de bañarse, de comer comida sana, en momentos normales del día, en que normalmente lo haría. Definitivamente comuníquese con su comunidad, con su familia. Manténga conversaciones reales. Intente responder con más de una sola palabra. Especialmente si se siente tenso, molesto o angustiado, esfuércese para hacer más, para expresar más, tanto como pueda.

Nuevamente, recuerde, puede estar abriéndole la puerta a alguien más que necesita hablar usted. Y al hacer eso, se ayudan mutuamente.

Necesito dirigirme ahora a la siguiente llamada importante. Es, de hecho, una declaración de la importancia de este tema. Así que, gracias, AARP, por el tiempo. Solo quiero nombrar nuestro sitio web y nuestra página de Facebook para que las personas puedan aprender más sobre nosotros.

Nuestro Facebook es www.facebook.com/weareprevents. Nuestro sitio web

es www.va.gov/prevents. Espero que las personas que están en Facebook, o que les gusta Twitter, uso más Twitter que Facebook, pero estamos en ambos. Es #MoreThanEverBefore. Debemos prestar atención a nuestra salud emocional y bienestar. No estamos solos. Estamos en esto juntos. Vamos a superar esto juntos.

Gracias a todos por unirse. Gracias a mis queridas amigas, Altha y Cam, por ser parte de esto. Gracias de nuevo a AARP.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias, Dra. Van Dahlen por su servicio público. Y buena suerte con su reunión.

Me gustaría recordarles a los oyentes que presionen * 3 si desean hacerle una pregunta a la Dra. Stewart o a la Dra. Ritchie. Y pasemos a una llamada.

Jean, ¿a quién tenemos?

JEAN SETZFAND: Tenemos a Aaron de D.C.

JASON YOUNG: Aaron, adelante.

AARON: Sí, hola. Mi nombre es Aaron, soy un veterano, envejeciendo solo en el área de D.C., y sufro de trastorno de estrés postraumático, depresión severa e ideación suicida. Pero estoy en tratamiento.

Mi pregunta es, con el nuevo coronavirus, y no sé si es así como me siento, pero con el coronavirus, estoy tratando de no permitir que sea un desencadenante de mis otros síntomas de TEPT. Y también, estoy tratando de distinguir porque el aislamiento social es parte de mi forma de vida con TEPT, y distinguir la diferencia entre TEPT, no permitir que el aislamiento social, se convierta en distanciamiento social, o tal vez sea al revés. No dejar que el distanciamiento social se convierta en aislamiento social. Me preguntaba qué consejo pueden darme para eso.

JASON YOUNG: Aaron, primero, quiero agradecerle por su servicio al país.

Dra. Ritchie, conoces estos problemas. ¿Qué piensa?

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Así es. Y también le agradezco a usted y a todos los veteranos por su servicio. Creo que es una muy buena pregunta. Y comenzaría por la persona con la que está en terapia ahora.

Como mencioné antes, el VA tiene una extensa telemedicina. A algunos veteranos les gusta ir al VA. Algunas personas prefieren ir a otro lado, pero comunicarse telefónicamente.

También hay una serie de grupos de apoyo. Y hace un tiempo, redujeron el número de grupos de apoyo en el VA. Pero los han vuelto a poner en marcha.

Y...Disculpe, han comenzado, en general. Y si no puede encontrar un grupo de apoyo, inicie un grupo de apoyo usted mismo. A veces las personas se sientan y piensan que alguien más lo hará.

Y, por supuesto, los hemos abrumado con todos los recursos disponibles. Y tal vez como resultado de la llamada, podríamos averiguar quiénes son los veteranos y ver quién querría hacer un grupo de apoyo.

Señor, ¿en qué momento estuvo usted en servicio? A menudo ayuda si las personas de la misma guerra o la misma era se conectan entre sí.

JASON YOUNG: Sí, desafortunadamente, hemos perdido la conexión con Aaron, por lo que no puede responder. Pero pasemos a otro llamado. Jean, ¿a quién más tenemos?

JEAN SETZFAND: Tenemos a Cornelius de Louisiana.

JASON YOUNG: Adelante, Cornelius.

CORNELIUS: Hola, mi nombre es Cornelius de Alexandria, Louisiana. Y estamos teniendo un pequeño problema con nuestros veteranos de la Guerra de Corea.

Saludo a ese veterano y la doctora veterana, Dra. Ritchie. Y es bueno tenerla, Dra. Stewart, de la University of Tennessee. Fui a Louisiana Tech, viva los bulldogs, y de allí es Terry Bradshaw.

Pero mi pregunta, siendo afroamericano, tengo casi 90 años  Y con las cosas que están sucediendo aquí en Luisiana, y en todo el país y en todo el mundo, los afroamericanos necesitamos mucha salud mental y otras cosas.

¿Qué deberíamos hacer como afroamericanos? Y lo agradecería. Escucharé mi respuesta en vivo. Gracias.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias, Cornelius. Lamento haberme equivocado de nombre. Dra. Stewart, ¿pensamientos para Cornelius en Luisiana?

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, gracias, Cornelius, por esa pregunta.

Específicamente para el coronavirus, lo que estamos viendo en los primeros datos es que, al igual que uno esperaría si sigue la ciencia y la información sobre las disparidades en la salud de las personas en poblaciones minoritarias y desatendidas, como los afroamericanos, estamos viendo una diferencia similar en su impacto y en el resultado de

lo que se está haciendo para apoyar a estas personas.

Todavía es temprano en el ciclo del virus. Pero hasta ahora,

hay mucha información alrededor que debemos prestar atención. Tenemos que asegurarnos de recibir el mensaje correcto sobre lo que la gente debería estar haciendo, los mitos y las cosas que circulan en internet.

Sé que alguien que tiene 90 años probablemente no escucha mucho de ese desastre, como solía llamarlo mi abuelo. Pero hay mitos que circulan

y dicen que el coronavirus no afectará a las personas negras, que simplemente no les afecta a ellos. Eso no es cierto.

Podemos ver, por el número de personas en Nueva York, y ciertamente ahora en Luisiana, que se ven afectadas a tasas muy desproporcionadas con

respecto al número de personas negras que viven en esos entornos.

Por lo tanto, buscar atención de salud mental puede ser un desafío cuando se es afroamericano, especialmente si está buscando un terapeuta que también sea afroamericano. Simplemente no hay muchos de nosotros dando vueltas.

Pueden haber 4,000 psiquiatras negros, más quizás unos miles de psicólogos negros, hay más trabajadores sociales negros que cualquiera de los otros dos. Pero lo importante es que si siente que necesita ese tipo de ayuda, si desea terapia, si siente que necesita terapia, si las circunstancias actuales le hacen creer que necesita ayuda de alguien que esté profesionalmente capacitado para ayudarlo a tratar con las cosas con las que está luchando, busque esa ayuda.

Dimos algunos números antes. Puede identificar recursos en su área local

que pueden ser apropiados para aquello con lo que necesita ayuda. Pero lo importante es que reconozca que esto podría ser un problema y que desea

obtener ayuda para solucionarlo.

Y lo felicito por eso y por vivir hasta los 90 años. Felicidades.

JASON YOUNG: Absolutamente. Y buscar ayuda es un signo

de fortaleza, como siempre decimos. Jean, ¿tenemos otros llamados? ¿Quién es el siguiente?

JEAN SETZFAND: Absolutamente. Tenemos a Ruth de un código de área 601.

JASON YOUNG: Ruth, ¿es Nueva Jersey?

RUTH: No, es Misisipi.

JASON YOUNG: Oh, Dios mío, el estado natal de mi familia. Que vergüenza. No llamo lo suficiente. Adelante, Ruth.

RUTH: Mi nombre es Ruth. Y tengo una pregunta relacionada con los cuidadores que podrían mestar experimentando agotamiento.

Normalmente tienen un respiro cuando envían al individuo a una guardería para adultos. Y están allí normalmente durante unas cuatro o cinco horas. Pero ahora que no contamos con eso, se han cerrado, ¿qué sugerencias específicas tienen para darle a los cuidadores para evitar que abusen del que recibe el cuidado?

JASON YOUNG: Cuidar es uno de los trabajos más difíciles en los tiempos normales. Dra. Stewart, ¿qué piensa?

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, desafortunadamente, viví alguna experiencia personal como cuidadora durante un período de tiempo. Y creo, Ruth, que lo que está describiendo es realmente una situación muy difícil, ya en circunstancias normales, como dijo Jason.

Algunas de las cosas que me vienen a la mente que pueden ser útiles son, hay personas que aún pueden brindar atención en el hogar con las precauciones adecuadas y todo. Puede ser difícil encontrarlos en estos días, pero muchas de las agencias de atención médica domiciliaria continúan tratando de brindar apoyo, reconociendo que los miembros de la familia, especialmente los cuidadores primarios, realmente necesitan un respiro.

Es posible que tenga que buscar recursos a través de un grupo de la iglesia o una organización sin fines de lucro que lo haga, o familias con las que se sientan cómodas y sea poco probable que sean expuestas.

Pero realmente depende de su capacidad para movilizar esos recursos. Y es difícil cuando es el cuidador, tratar de encontrar su propio respiro. Entiendo eso. Y la entiendo a usted. Estoy justo al norte de usted, en Tennessee, así que la entiendo porque ya hay pocos recursos en buenas circunstancias.

Y esto realmente limita la disponibilidad de las personas que pueden proporcionar el nivel de atención que desea para su ser querido. Y la importancia de reconocer que el abuso a menudo es el resultado cuando

no tenemos una buena atención, también es importante.

No tengo ningún consejo más específico para usted en este momento. Conéctese con su red, si tiene miembros de la iglesia que hacen esto y pueden estar dispuestos a ayudar. Significa tener todo el equipo adecuado, equipo de protección, significa mantener lo mejor posible

las pautas de salud pública, y también significa coordinar el cuidado de su ser querido con su médico para asegurarse, si hay algún paso adicional que deba tomarse, de que también se incorpore a lo que pueda organizar. Buena suerte.

JASON YOUNG; Dra. Ritchie, tengo curiosidad, muchos cónyuges militares y padres también son cuidadores. ¿Y tiene una perspectiva sobre la pregunta de Ruth?

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Tengo una perspectiva, no es tranquilizadora. Lo que sí sabemos por otras pandemias, como el SARS, es que la pandemia pasa, y esas son buenas noticias. Pero que tiene un efecto que persiste debido al desempleo, a los cierres de hospitalidad y que las familias son agrupadas juntas.

Por lo general, lo que vemos con el tiempo es más violencia doméstica, abuso, irritabilidad. Creo que ser consciente de eso y hacer todas las cosas que sugiere la Dra. Stewart es útil para anticiparlo.

También quería decir unas palabras acerca de otra población que nos preocupa mucho, que es nuestra población de personas sin hogar que no reciben los servicios de apoyo que necesitan y pueden volverse suicidas, o tal vez enfermedades mentales graves anteriores.

Y, por supuesto, hay una serie de poblaciones que hemos mencionado recientemente, aquellas encarceladas, aquellas en hogares de ancianos que están atrapados allí. Esto va a ser un problema. Cuanto más pueda hacer para acercarse y ayudar a otras personas, probablemente mejor se sentirá.

Eso es lo que generalmente hace que las personas superen esto, si puede ayudar a alguien más.

JASON YOUNG: Buen consejo. Y me recuerda el cuidado personal. Un sistema inmunitario más fuerte tiene más probabilidades de combatir el virus y, de la misma manera, cuando se fortalece emocional y mentalmente, a veces es más capaz de hacer frente a ciertas situaciones. Solo un pensamiento.

Pasemos a nuestra próxima llamada. Jean, ¿a quién tenemos?

JEAN SETZFAND: Tenemos a Ariel de California.

JASON YOUNG: Adelante.

ARIEL: Si. Mi pregunta es cómo acceder a los recursos cuando no tienes una computadora en tu casa. Me he sentido muy frustrada. Soy parte de una comunidad budista, especialmente. Y mi fe es realmente importante para mí, para mantener una buena salud mental y permanecer estable. Y solo están ofreciendo cosas en línea, ni siquiera con un número de teléfono. Entonces, me siento muy frustrada y enojada porque no tengo acceso a lo que más necesito. Y simplemente me siento víctima y excluida, como diciendo, otra cosa más que hace que las personas que no pueden tener acceso a tecnología y que no son lo suficientemente inteligentes como para descubrirlo por sí mismas, sean dejadas de lado.

JASON YOUNG: Dra. Ritchie, ¿alguna idea para Ariel?

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Bueno, esa es una pregunta difícil. No sé por qué no tiene una computadora en casa, y es cierto que mucho de esto se está haciendo a través de las computadoras.

Un teléfono inteligente es una opción, encontrar un niño de secundaria que pueda enseñarle cómo usar un teléfono inteligente puede ser una opción. Pero es cierto que la tecnología, para darle crédito, creo que la tecnología ha recorrido un largo camino en las últimas semanas, a medida que hemos necesitado usarla.

JASON YOUNG: Y solo quiero recordarle a la gente que si desea conectarse con Mi Comunidada con AARP, como recordatorio, estos son voluntarios, no son profesionales capacitados en salud mental y ese tipo de cosas, pero son voluntarios que brindan un oído atento y se comunicarán con usted. Y es un servicio gratuito.

Puede conectarse con ellos llamando al 888-281-0145. Ariel, como punto de partida, puede llamar al 888-281-0145 y conectarse con la gente de Mi Comunidad con AARP.

Jean, ¿tenemos otra llamada?

JEAN SETZFAND: Así es. Tenemos a Danny de Texas.

JASON YOUNG: Adelante.

DANNY: Buenas tardes a todos. Gracias, como decimos aquí en Texas, por el trabajo que están haciendo mientras nos adaptamos al nuevo "normal."

Mi pregunta es, al hablar sobre la salud emocional, una de las emociones

recientes es la ira. Tal vez como resultado del aislamiento, no lo sé.

Pero es la ira por mis derechos y mis libertades que están siendo violadas por estas nuevas reglas, como el distanciamiento social,

el uso de guantes y mascarillas faciales, y especialmente la permanencia en el hogar, a excepción de las salidas esenciales. ¿Qué consejo tienen para aquellos que están enojados por estos cambios?

JASON YOUNG: Claro. Dra. Stewart, ¿alguna idea para Danny

de Texas sobre la ira?

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, sí. Y gracias Danny. Creo que esa es

la gran pregunta tabú porque las personas se sienten culpables de estar enojadas por algo que es lo mejor para todos, pero no les gusta.

Creo que lo primero que haré será referirme a algo que la Dra. Van Dahlen mencionó en sus comentarios. La risa es un muy buen antídoto para muchas de las cosas que nos aquejan.

Recomendaría a las personas que son conscientes de que se sienten enojadas por algo que no pueden controlar, que le está sucediendo a todos

y que terminará algún día, esperamos que pronto, que comiencen a responder a esa ira con risas, primero y ante todo.

El hecho de que está enojado cuando sabe que no puede hacer nada, tal vez dejarlo pasar y decir: "Me voy a reír ahora porque la ira no hace nada para ayudar a la situación". Lo segundo es que comenzaría a buscar

formas de calmar la ira.

Si la risa no funciona, busca maneras de calmar la ira. Si pone su música favorita y comienza a bailar ridículamente frente al espejo, ¿eso lo hace sonreír? ¿Eso ayuda a calmar la ira? Si sale a caminar afuera o da una vuelta a la manzana, a pesar de todas las cosas que odia y lo hacen enojar, pero hacerlo de todos modos, ¿eso ayudará?

¿Puede llamar y desahogarse con alguien que lo entiende? Solo se está desahogando. No está molesto con ellos ni nada, solo necesita desahogarse. ¿Puede ver un video divertido en línea?

Intente encontrar las cosas que lo ayudarán a calmar la ira, reconozca que se trata de algo sobre lo que no puede hacer nada, que está fuera de su control, y luego permítase decir: "Está bien, lo saqué afuera. Estaba enojado. Estoy enojado. Volveré a enojarme. Pero cada vez que eso suceda,

ahora sé qué me ayudará a lidiar con eso". Practique ese tipo de autocuidado, que le permita experimentar el sentimiento y luego dejarlo ir, no puede controlar ninguna de las cosas que lo están causando.

JASON YOUNG: Jean, ¿de quién es el siguiente llamado?

JEAN SETZFAND: Tenemos Dolores de Virginia.

JASON YOUNG: Hola, Dolores.

DOLORES: Hola. ¿Cómo está?

JASON YOUNG: Bien. ¿Cuál es su pregunta?

DOLORES: Sí. Déjeme buscarla. La escribí. Sí. Me preguntaba si sus

presentadores pueden compartir algunas formas creativas e innovadoras de comunicarse, o si los centros de atención a largo plazo pueden ayudar a uno a comunicarse con sus seres queridos.

Mi madre tiene 92 años y está bajo cuidado a largo plazo debido a la COVID-19. Y la visitaba tres o cuatro veces por semana antes de que ahora estuviera encerrada. Y a mis hermanas y hermanos y a mí, las formas principales en que nos permiten comunicarnos es un FaceTime de 15 minutos una vez por semana, y luego tal vez una ventana de 15 minutos [INAUDIBLE] una vez por semana.

Mi pregunta es, ¿cómo funciona la atención a largo plazo? ¿Existen formas innovadoras y creativas que se pueden utilizar para comunicarse y ayudar a los miembros de la familia a comunicarse con sus seres queridos?

JASON YOUNG: Dra. Ritchie, ¿alguna idea para la situación de Dolores?

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Bueno, es una pregunta difícil sin respuestas fáciles, como muchas de estas cosas. También tengo padres en un centro de enfermería que están encerrados ahora. Y francamente estoy muy contenta de que estén encerrados porque antes de eso, se negaron a prestar atención a las advertencias y estaban fuera dando vueltas y haciendo el tipo de cosas que ahora sabemos que no deberían haber estado haciendo.

Las cosas cambian muy rápido. Pero creo que el teléfono. Les llevo comida, ya que no me permiten entrar a las instalaciones. Podría escribirle una tarjeta. Incluso podría escribir una carta a la vieja usanza. Sé que algunas tropas de Girl Scouts están reuniendo tarjetas de agradecimiento para el personal de atención médica aquí en el Washington Hospital Center.

Las van a poner en cuarentena por un tiempo. Y luego, si su madre sabe cómo usar la tecnología, siempre puede tomar fotos y enviarle las fotos por correo electrónico. No sé, algunas personas mayores son buenas con eso, y algunas simplemente se frustran con eso.

JASON YOUNG: Creo que si puede dejar un paquete, como un paquete de fotos o tal vez un libro favorito, eso puede ayudar a las personas a sentirse conectadas, aunque el tiempo en persona ahora es limitado.

Dra. Ritchie, vamos a tener que terminar pronto, y solo quería ver si tal vez podríamos atender una última llamada, y tal vez algunas reflexiones finales. Jean, ¿una breve llamada más?

JEAN SETZFAND: Genial. Tenemos una llamada de Ron de Ohio.

JASON YOUNG: Adelante, Ron.

RON: Oh, llamé antes y creo que muchas de las preguntas fueron respondidas. No voy a tomar mucho tiempo, y voy a permitir que

pasen a una última llamada, porque muchas de mis preocupaciones

ya fueron abordadas. Y voy a expresar mi más profundo agradecimiento y rezar por todos nosotros. Pase a una última llamada más allá de la mía.

JASON YOUNG: Bueno, gracias, Ron. Jean, ¿a quién más tenemos?

JEAN SETZFAND: Tenemos a Olive de Nueva Jersey.

JASON YOUNG: Muy bien, adelante. Olive, ¿estás ahí?

OLIVE: La gratitud y el aprecio hacia AARP por estar haciendo esto. Estuve escuchando durante la última hora y realmente recibí muchas sugerencias y aclaraciones perspicaces Mi pregunta rápida es sobre la telesalud. ¿Cómo funciona? No necesariamente por problemas de salud mental, pero soy jubilada y tengo hipertensión.

Ahora, si mi presión se dispara o baja mucho, como sucede a veces,

¿cómo uso la telesalud, el mecanismo para comunicarme con un médico o algo así? ¿Cómo funciona?

JASON YOUNG: Dra. Stewart, ¿puede aconsejar sobre eso?

ALTHA STEWART: Claro. Si está bajo el cuidado de un médico ahora, o en una clínica donde ve a alguien regularmente por su presión arterial, lo contactaría por teléfono y le informaría cuáles son sus problemas.

Y en la mayoría de los lugares ahora, la mayoría de las clínicas y consultorios médicos brindan servicios directamente

a través de telesalud, como describió la Dra. Ritchie anteriormente.

Deberían poder, dependiendo de si tiene un teléfono, un teléfono inteligente o una computadora, examinarla a través de uno de esos medios, y proporcionarle un plan de tratamiento sobre qué hacer a continuación.

Pero primero consultaría con mi médico o la clínica donde estoy recibiendo atención.

JASON YOUNG: Bueno, hemos compartido tantas herramientas, ideas compartidas hoy que me siento lleno de energía y empoderado. Pero quiero dejar que nuestras dos invitadas, que todavía están con nosotros, se despidan compartiendo con nosotros, ¿qué las mantiene en marcha? ¿Qué las inspira?

Quizás Dra. Ritchie, podemos comenzar con usted. ¿Cómo está pasando estos días?

ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE: Lo que me impulsa es hacer el trabajo para el que fui capacitada. Sin embargo, permítanme concluir con un último concepto que creo que es realmente importante.

Se escucha mucho sobre EPP, equipo de protección personal en el sentido de mascarillas y guantes. Pero piensen en su EPP de salud mental, y esas son todas las sugerencias que han escuchado hoy para fortalecer su sistema inmunitario, el sueño, el ejercicio y el entrenamiento.

Y ese es su equipo de protección personal de salud mental. Asegúrense de ejercitar esa parte de su cuerpo y mente.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias por esas ideas. Dra. Stewart, ¿qué piensa?

ALTHA STEWART: Bueno, creo que la Dra. Ritchie lo dijo bien. Lo único, es que agregaré tres cosas.

Una es romper la adicción al ciclo de noticias de 24 horas. Y nadie necesita saber cada minuto de las últimas noticias sobre esta crisis. Estamos en esto a largo plazo ahora. Y estresarse por mirar cada estación, escuchar cada actualización, ver cada cabeza parlante solo aumenta la presión y el estrés. Entonces, rompan ese ciclo.

Lo segundo es, mantenganse presente, vivan el momento.

No se preocupen por lo que pasó ayer, ni se preocupen mucho por lo que pueda pasar mañana. Intenten mantenerse presente. Y el presente de hoy es: estaré activo, mantendré la calma, usaré mis habilidades de humor y actividad física para mantener mi estabilidad emocional y mi bienestar.

Y lo tercero es mantenerse conectado. El hecho de que debamos permanecer

separados no significa que debamos estar solos. Usen cualquier medio,

tecnológico o personal que tengan, para mantenerse conectados con las personas que conocen, con las personas que les importan y que se preocupan por ustedes, y las personas que entienden su situación particular y están preparadas para cuidar de ustedes y relacionarse ustedes, pase lo que pase.

JASON YOUNG: Gracias por eso, Dra. Stewart. Y gracias a las dos.

Solo quiero recordarle a la gente que toda esta gran información está en www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus. Eso es www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus. La llamada de hoy ha sido grabada y aparecerá en el sitio. Pueden acceder a ella más tarde.

Pueden escucharla en nuestro podcast, AARP Take on Today. Y no se olviden de Mi Comunidad con AARP. Eso está en www.aarpcommunityconnections.org Ese es el servicio para ofrecer ayuda y obtener ayuda usted y conectarse con nuestros voluntarios.

Y también les recuerdo del programa Connect2Affect que ejecuta AARP Foundation, que trata sobre el aislamiento social. Eso es www.connect2affect.org.

Ante esta crisis, estamos proporcionando información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan a protegerse del virus. Pero también estamos tratando de atender el miedo, la ansiedad y el aislamiento social que pueden acompañarlo.

Espero que todos los recursos que se proporcionaron hoy sean de ayuda. También compartiría que mi cantante favorito, John Prine, murió hace dos días, y tenía el mensaje, la canción "Hello in There", que era un gran mensaje para conectarse con personas que pueden estar aisladas o solas.

Nuevamente, la dirección web de todos nuestros materiales, www.aarp.org/elcoronavirus. Si las preguntas que tiene hoy no fueron respondidas allí, estaremos poniendo las últimas actualizaciones en nuestro sitio web, noticias constantes e información para usted.

Y, por favor, sintonice nuestra teleasamblea la próxima semana, 16 de abril, nuevamente a la 1:00 p.m., hora del este. Nuestra próxima teleasamblea será el 16 de abril a la 1:00 p.m., hora del este.

Muchas gracias a todos. Y les deseo buena salud mental, buena concentración.

Y esto concluye nuestro llamado.

Cuídense.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • May 14 –  Coronavirus: Veterans & Staying at Home With Lifestyle Experts
  • May 7 – Coronavirus: Protecting Your Health & Bank Account and Managing Your Career, Business & Income
  • April 30 – Coronavirus: Caring for Parents, Kids & Grandkids
  • April 23 – Coronavirus: Supporting Loved Ones in Care Facilities and Disparate Impact on Communities
  • April 16 – Coronavirus: Telehealth
  • April 9 – Coronavirus: Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being
  • April 2 – Coronavirus: Managing Your Money and Protecting Your Health
  • March 26 – Coronavirus: Protecting and Caring for Loved Ones
  • March 19  Coronavirus: Protect Your Health, Wealth and Loved Ones
  • March 10 – Cornavirus: Symptoms. How to Protect Yourself, and What It Means for Older Adults and Caregivers

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