Mental Health Impacts and Disasters

Hi welcome to another episode of MYD Global I’m your host Leann Hackman-Carty one of the things that goes often
underreported in a disaster is the mental health component in this episode
I speak with Renae Beaumont she’s a faculty member at the New York
Presbyterian Hospital Renae’s done a lot of research in respect to helping youth
deal with social anxiety trauma and giving them tools and resources to help
I talked to Renae about how this COVID crisis is going to impact us and what we
can all use whether we’re young people or older people or people trying to
manage those two age groups as far as what we can do to help make sure that
this is as smooth a transition as possible and what we can do in a
proactive way to stay healthy so stay tuned He Renae how are you today yeah doing
really well thanks Leann well thanks for doing this before we get started on our
topic you just tell the viewers a little bit about yourself your background yeah
happy to so I’m an Aussie child psychologist
I’m currently based in New York City at Weill Cornell Medicine New York
Presbyterian Hospital and my main area of interest and passion
is really how can we use technology to boost the mental health and well-being
of young people that’s great and so I know you’re in New York right now and as
we tape this your your city’s kind of been impacted by COVID and you’re
not able to get around as easily as you were in the past yeah absolutely I mean
it’s kind of almost unrecognizable New York City at the moment it’s hardly
anyone on the streets you know kids are at home with families not at school its
restaurants are empty it’s it’s virtually unrecognizable yeah well I
mean the topic I wanted to talk to you today about well is that whole mental
health piece because when it comes to disasters that is often something that
is under recognized I mean people kind of just don’t even
realize what’s going on until after the fact and the trigger events and so I
want to talk a little bit about disasters I mean can you talk about kind
of that mental health piece when it comes to whether it’s other types of
trauma but but disasters in particular no absolutely I mean I think the first
thing to recognize when it comes to mental health and disasters is that it’s
normal to have intense strong emotions in response to disaster during and
afterwards so you know feelings and intense anxiety and worry about your
safety your health your well-being what’s the recovery going to look like
but also other emotions like you sadness and disappointment particularly during
times like this you know during the COVID epidemic or pandemic um where you
kids had events that they were looking forward to that have now been canceled
so dealing with the sadness and disappointment of that dealing with the
irritation of being under each other’s feet for
long periods of tired you know in a confined home environment where kids are
trying to become engaged with remote learning parents are trying to get on
with their work commitments at home and and also sometimes boredom right like
keeping yourself occupied and engaged so intense feelings during these times are
very normal I think you know where it becomes concerning is where those
emotions are all-consuming where you’re not able to function in any other way or
where after the disaster subsides and people are in recovery efforts you’re not
able to re-engage in your daily functioning you’re not able to kind of
do those jobs at home or in your paid work or for kids at school because your
emotions are so overwhelming that’s really when professional helps needed
yeah well and one of the things I’ve been thinking about personally is you’ve
got kids and you mentioned that you know they’re at home they’re in a new
environment doing trying to do their schoolwork they’re usually connected
every day with their schoolmates and right now they’re not able to even you
know they might see them physically or virtually on the internet but they’re
not actually engaging with them and then you’ve got on the other side of the
spectrum you’ve got I mean a lot of people over whether it’s 70 or 80s on
both types of age groups just saying do not leave your homes so you’ve got that
isolation at that end of the spectrum but also the kids and so I’m just
thinking is there a difference between what you would recommend some strategies
for those two target markets that’s a really great question
I mean there are some real similarities in how to offer support to your kids or
maybe older relatives parents but there there are a lot of very important
differences as well so I think the first recommendation or tip I have is you
know being here to talk to them about this the worst thing you can do is avoid
it don’t discuss it because they’re going to be exposed to lots of
information about this in you know their daily life the media social media so
have those conversations share accurate facts about what this is but how you do
that is going to look different for a child versus you know
a parent so one of the big important points when you’re talking to young
children for example about this is to share information in a way that’s sort
of age-appropriate don’t be sharing over sharing either in terms of these facts
and information beyond what they can understand because that’s just gonna
overwhelm them um the other thing in terms of how you
share information with kids versus you know older parents is the risk the
research we have around risk so for younger kids you can share with them
look if you were to get this you know you may feel a bit unwell but you’re not
likely to be really really really sick and that’s sort of what the research to
date suggests whereas for older parents particularly if they are unhealthy
already that risk profile looks a little bit different so that’s an important
difference the other thing which taps into what you just mentioned is you may
be at home living with your children so you know you’re there you’re easily
accessible if they have questions you want to be able to answer them and just
know hey if you’ve got any questions concerns I’m here to talk to but
particularly if you have older parents who are in a care facility living alone
you know there’s not that day-to-day interaction so you have to be very
mindful in terms of reaching out and and whilst text and messaging is so
popular nowadays often going that extra step of making a phone call or you
know if they’re a little bit tech savvy or FaceTime or some sort of video
conferencing call so they can feel connected and supported and engaging
kids to do that you know giving at a time like this is so important not just
in terms of helping other members of our community but helping with our own
well-being as well as you know stave off a bit of boredom as well so I think you
know that idea being there for each other staying connected during times of
social isolation but how that looks can be different but for younger people in
your family versus old amended yeah that’s great advice because I know a lot
of people are struggling with what to do I mean they’re all of us are struggling
with you know what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing and how our lives have
been disrupted and so and when you’re trying to help those
that depend on you you know having the right approach is really important I
know one of the things that you do at in your actual day job is really look at
those technology pieces and how they can enable and help people deal with the
anxiety is there something you can kind of share some of those things that
you’re doing that are you’re actually whether it is testing or whether you’re
you’re using to help people with this area yeah I think first of all I’d love
to share some tips on things that are readily available to people to help them
during this time then I could look a little bit more maybe about some of the
research I’m doing the projects I’m involved in so you know one of the other
things coming back to your previous question around like how do you help
them because of your family college during this period you know one is being
a good role model and that can be really tough because there’s going to be ties
but all of us are like wow this is this is a lot to cope with I’m trying to be a
good role model is showing hey this is how I’m coping with these big emotions
at times where we all maybe feel a little bit overwhelmed so coming back to
your technology question I think you know there are some great apps out there
like headspace calm smiling mine which meditation apps and you know there’s a
lot of research nowadays as to the value of meditation even if it’s just 10
minutes in the morning ten minutes at night to be able to help with reducing
anxiety improving your overall emotional well-being during difficult times like
this so it’s wonderful that those apps are readily available you know you can
get them from the app store and online to be able to help you to cope and keep
your mind sort of in a healthy space during times like this the second you
know technological innovation that has huge potential and impact during crisis
and enduring disaster times is telemedicine and telehealth so you know
I’m no longer able to work with the kids and teens and young adults that I
typically see face-to-face in that capacity but you know through
innovations like zoom teleconferencing and other video
conferencing platforms we’re still connected I’m able to offer them the
professional support they need during times of uncertainty where for people
who do have mental health conditions this can be a high-risk time for those
conditions to get worse so I think that’s another really invaluable
technological innovation during times like this
telemedicine video conferencing video support your even people who are showing
some early physical signs that may or may not suggest that they have coded I
know a lot of general practitioners are now turning to video conferencing in
this time of social distancing to still be able to provide support and guidance
without putting your populations at risk through a lot of face-to-face contact so
I think you know in terms of the current situation there – technological
innovations that have so much power when it comes to sorry I go nowhere
um yeah when it comes to some of the sort of technologically innovative
research that I’m doing I developed a video gaming based therapy programs for
kids particularly with anxiety disorders ADHD autism spectrum disorders that
teachers some of the skills they need to feel sort of karma happier braver to
make and keep friends called the Secret Agent Society and in the wake of
Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands a couple of years ago you know I
had the great privilege of being able to train educators and other mental health
professionals in how to use this this video game that kids find really fun
engaging to help boost their coping skills during a time of tragedy like
that but particularly in the wake of that when it took quite some time for
schools to get back up and running and you know kids saw their family
struggling so it’s great to see innovations like that we’re also working
on a project looking at the power of virtual reality to reduce social anxiety
in teens and so you know teens being able to practice skills of how they’d
interact with a virtual avatar in situations like a cafeteria environment
or a party in fire or asking a question in class being able
to practice those skills in a virtual world initially with avatar characters
can really boost their confidence and skills to them put those skills into
action in their daily life when they need them so you know the power of
technology to help us during times like this I think is is really profound
that’s awesome well I will include some of those links and in organizations and
resources that you mentioned in this video and and before we wrap up is there
anything else we need that maybe I didn’t ask about that you would like to
share before we sign off I think you know at times it can be hard to find the
silver lining in a situation like this like we’re all probably feel like we’re
struggling taking life day to day you problem-solving on our feet in the
moment trying to figure a way to keep moving forward and help those we care
about most and I think sometimes it’s during a situation like this that we can
take a moment to reflect on what’s most important to us we’re forced in some
cases to be spending more time with family and connecting with close friends
and loved ones but but realizing here that’s that’s often a value very close
to the heart of many of us so this is a time that we can use to promote that
sense of closeness and connectedness with the people we care about most and
also to reflect in words like um taking some time to kind of connect with what
are your real values and priorities sometimes we get so caught up in our
to-do lists of all the social activities we’ve got to get to and taking a moment
to reflect on hey what really matters to me most and and this is an opportunity
for that I think also we’re reminded you know we see how this pandemic has spread
globally so quickly and this is a reminder that we are all interconnected
that we need to look out for each other and when it comes to things like you
know healthcare policy or paid sick leave it sometimes takes an event of
this magnitude we promote positive change on a more
global level in those areas so I think it’s really hard where when we in the
eye of the storm to kind of think what’s the positive of this but there’s some
things that hopefully may be positives that we can take from this experience
that is a great way to end because they know if you just you get consumed with
what’s going on and you’re looking at the news you just it’s so doom and gloom
you just feel like is there a light at the end of the tunnel and so to be able
to step back and say you know what this too will pass and I need to take care of
myself and my family and and you just do what I can do what I can control so
absolutely that’s awesome Renee well thank you so
much for taking the time I know you’re going to be very busy now and in the
future with a lot of important work so thanks again for taking the time thanks
so much Leann it was my pleasure to connect with you okay bye bye you

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