IPSWICH — Town Manager Anthony Marino and Public Health Director Colleen Fermon wish to provide safety tips and resources for anyone who may be struggling or in need of help as a result of the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing.
A stay at home advisory has been issued by the state to all residents who are non-essential employees, prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people and asking residents only to go outside for necessary errands like grocery shopping or picking up medications.
“The reality is, social distancing to this degree also comes with a lot of serious concerns,” Fermon said. “Prolonged social distancing could exacerbate domestic violence, and we want to ensure those who need help have tools in hand to stay safe. We also know that this is an incredibly stressful and potentially anxiety inducing situation for many, and that can also be very trying for anyone who struggles with substance use.”
In order to ensure residents have the resources and information they need to stay stay safe and healthy, the Town of Ipswich is offering the following safety tips and resources on stress and anxiety, substance use and domestic violence:
Stress and Anxiety Management
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are many ways to manage anxiety and stress as a result of the situation:
- Share the facts about COVID-19 to understand the actual risk to yourself and other individuals. When you share accurate information about COVID-19 you can help make people feel less stressed and allow you to connect with them.
- Avoid posting or re-posting unverified information, claims, bogus medical information or conspiracy theories, as it only works to heighten emotions
- Take breaks from listening, watching and reading the news.
- Tend to your body. Stretch, mediate and take deep breaths. Try to eat well-balanced meals, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Try to do other activities that are enjoyable.
- Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Reassure children and teens that they are safe and that it is okay if they feel upset or stressed.
- Be a role model to children and teens. Connect with friends and families while abiding to social distancing standards, including the use of video calling services like FaceTime.
Children and COVID-19
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers the following guidance for parents and caregivers during infectious disease outbreaks:
PRESCHOOL CHILDREN, 0–5 YEARS OLD
Very young children may express anxiety and stress by going back to old habits including thumb sucking. They may fear sickness, strangers, darkness or monsters. It is fairly common for preschool children to become clingy with a parent, caregiver, or teacher or to want to stay in a place where they feel safe. They may express their understanding of the outbreak repeatedly in their play or tell exaggerated stories about it. Some children’s eating and sleeping habits may change. They also may have aches and pains that cannot be explained. Other symptoms to watch for are aggressive or withdrawn behavior, hyperactivity, speech difficulties, and disobedience.
Infants and Toddlers, 0–2 years old, cannot understand that something bad in the world is happening, but they know when their caregiver is upset. They may start to show the same emotions as their caregivers, or they may act differently, like crying for no reason or withdrawing from people and not playing with their toys.
Children, 3–5 years old, may be able to understand the effects of an outbreak. If they
are very upset by news of the outbreak, they may have trouble adjusting to change and
loss. They may depend on the adults around them to help them feel better.
Pre-teens and Adolescents, 11–19 years old, go through a lot of physical and emotional changes because of their developmental stage. So it may be even harder for them to cope with the anxiety that may be associated with hearing and reading news of an infectious disease outbreak. Older teens may deny their reactions to themselves and their caregivers. They may respond with a routine “I’m okay” or even silence when they are upset. Or they may complain about physical aches or pains because they cannot identify what is really bothering them emotionally. They may also experience some physical symptoms because of anxiety about the outbreak. Some may start arguments at home and/or at school, resisting any structure or authority. They also may engage in risky behaviors such as using alcohol or drugs.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids also has a COVID-19 page up with resources including its free and confidential helpline. Parents can text 55753 or call 855-378-4373 for help with youth substance use.
Substance Use and Mental Health Crisis Resources
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also offers a Disaster Distress Helpline to provide 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people.
- Call 800-985-5990 to connect with trained crisis counselors, 24/7
- Text with a live counselor via SMS, text ‘TalkWithUs” to 66746.
- Text “Hablanos” for Spanish at 66746.
- To learn more on how to cope with stress and anxiety, go to the CDC website, or the SAMHSA website.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has also created a blog post about resources and implications of the COVID-19 crisis on substance use disorders.
Additionally, Mass.gov has great resources available, including access to virtual AA meetings, and Boston Medical Center recently published a website dedicated to recovery resources in the COVID-19 epidemic.
Downloadable Resources/Further Reading
- National Alliance on Mental Illness COVID-19 resources for citizens and business owners
- Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak
- SAMHSA: Taking Care of Your Behavioral Health
- SAMHSA: Talking With Children: Tips for Caregivers, Parents, and Teachers During Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Domestic Violence Resources and Information
The Baker-Polito Administration announced the expansion of SafeLink, a statewide, 24/7, toll-free, confidential domestic violence hotline, on April 9 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure survivors of sexual assault, in addition to domestic violence survivors, have access to support and services while the stay at home advisory remains in place.
Previously, the hotline was used to connect domestic violence survivors to services, and now the hotline will also do the same for sexual assault survivors. SafeLink now offers an avenue for any survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault to access crisis intervention support and help in safety planning measures for themselves and their families.
To access the SafeLink hotline, call 877-785-2020.The SafeLink TTY number is available for those who are hearing-impaired at 877-521-2601.
In an emergency, residents are reminded to always call 911.
With the increase in social distancing due to COVID-19, domestic violence may increase in the home as survivors must stay home and are unable to separate themselves from their abuser.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline advises that, though staying home and avoiding public spaces may help reduce the spread of COVID-19, staying home may not be the safest option for survivors. Situations like COVID-19 can add additional stress and financial strain and can create unsafe environments for survivors. COVID-19 may also be used by abusers to control victims. This may include preventing survivors from seeking medical attention if they are experiencing symptoms of the virus or using the virus as a scare tactic to isolate survivors and keep them from seeing children or family members.