LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: – Everyone wants to be at their best with family and friends during the Christmas season. However, almost two years after the Covid-19 pandemic, with the loss of a number of loved ones and numerous other challenges, everyone’s mental health is at risk.

But it’s okay to ask for help, and for that there is in Los Angeles County.

At a briefing hosted by LA District President Kathryn Barger and Ethnic Media Services (EMS), district officials urged the public not to be shy for help received – for their own sake and that of their communities – and named some places to find them.

“Depression is the main problem people face,” said Barger. “Without support, mental health problems can quickly turn into a snowball and have a profound effect on our lives.”

“But there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our county is committed to providing residents with the tools to help them get healthy and thrive, “she said, admitting that the pandemic has also taken its toll in social isolation, job losses, increased childcare needs and more.

“Mental health stress does not discriminate,” said Barger. “Please know that you are not alone. The holiday blues can hit anyone, regardless of age or background. “

” It’s okay to ask for help. It is not a weakness, it is a sign of strength that you put your health first so that you can be there for your family. “

Dr. Jonathan Sherin of the District Mental Health Office emphasized the value of the small kindnesses we can show to one another and the importance of maintaining bonds with friends, family and community.

“Sounds cheesy,” he admitted, but shared , like little things like bringing other drivers together in front of us, with a wave and a confirmation, or even opening doors.

There’s a hotline, (800) 854-7771, which is manned 24/7 and everything offers, from a calm, concerned voice to find a way through a crisis, to someone who can send a team to resolve a situation in person.

The county also has two app-based programs . One, Headspace, is a mediation oriented one. The newer, Iprevail, offers web-based, avatar-based cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We have found this type of virtual process to be as effective as personal treatment for many people.”

Shirley Ray of Los Angeles County The Department of Public Health described some of the ways the county can help people overcome the holiday blues from their own experience.

She had “a very exciting life,” working and marrying children until she had a heart attack suffered and became homeless.

She was reluctant to impose on her now grown children and lived in her car for “a number of years”. She recalled, “It was difficult for me around the holidays.”

Eventually, nurses from Mental Health America Long Beach noticed her and put her in a lottery, which she won. They also helped her overcome the fear of stigma by going to a psychiatric clinic.

Counseling and art therapy helped her there. Her artwork was featured on the county’s We Rise program and she was moved to help others.

“It’s not good to be idle,” she said. She runs the peer-to-peer self-help group “What’s the Word, Word Up” as a volunteer at the San Pedro Mental Health Clinic that helped her.

“When we are able to take care of ourselves , we have more energy and more resources to take care of others, ”said Dr. Jorge Partida del Toro, Head of Psychology at the District Mental Health Office.

However, he said, “People of color have not been able to use their voices for generations. We are used to being silent and stuffing our emotions. That is why we have problems with chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. We also have a higher incidence of mental illness, depression and anxiety because we just sit with so much suffering. “

” We learn that silence makes us strong. We need to teach our children the opposite, to stay connected and share. ”

The pandemic“ did not allow our communities to grieve properly, ”he said. “The ritual of letting go and being able to say goodbye is interrupted … Because we are afraid to be so open and honest, we tend to hold on to this long-lasting grief.”

This manifests itself, according to del Toro, in “Increases in suicide attempts, domestic violence, self-harming behavior, especially among men, more acting out through addiction, sexual coercion, gambling, an indirect way of addressing and expressing the unresolved grief in which we sometimes find ourselves.” > Dr. Eloisa Gonzalez from the Ministry of Health concluded the briefing with an update on the availability of vaccinations and booster vaccinations, free of charge and regardless of immigration status, for anyone living or working in the county. For information on how to access these, visit vaccinatelacounty.com.

The county is still recording more than a thousand new cases each day, although there is no evidence of an increase after Halloween, a result that Gonzalez is pointing to greater awareness, Careful, thought-out planning of the residents and a higher vaccination rate lead back.

The vaccination rates are among the black residents with 54 percent overall, 43 percent among the 18 to 29 year olds and 46 percent among the 12-17 year olds lowest, while the seniors are 75 percent. Among Latin American residents, 18 to 29 year olds are the least likely to be vaccinated at 58 percent.

“If we don’t do better, the ratio of health outcomes by race and ethnicity would be even greater if we saw a further increase experience “, said Dr. Gonzalez.

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