In a recent Pain Points Poll conducted by the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative (CMSI), 36 percent of respondents with no existing anxiety or history of depression said they were currently experiencing these types of symptoms as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The CMSI town hall on Thursday sought to address the concerns of psychological stress that is a result of the pandemic. Panelists discussed that pre-existing conditions, isolation as a result of social distancing, anxiety of getting sick/infected, and the threat (or actual) loss of one’s job as primary factors affecting mental health.

“Most responses are stress reactions,” said Dr. Stephen Cozza, Senior Scientist at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress Medicine. “People will experience changes in sleep, decreases in a sense of security and safety, and physical symptoms like irritability and distraction. These responses are usually time limited and associated with the disaster event from a time perspective,” he said.

Dr. Cozza elaborated said that risk behaviors may increase during a disaster event, including an increase in tobacco and alcohol use; or the use (or misuse) of prescribed or not prescribed drugs. He also said there is the potential for increase of interpersonal violence, especially as families are living in close quarters for a longer duration than normal.

In order to mitigate the adverse effects on psychological health, the panel pointed the community resources to increase personal resilience during the crisis.

“The disruption to our family’s established routine is becoming a major challenge in managing our mental health,” said Tricia Winklosky of Hope for the Warriors. Her organization offers a range of virtual services from mental health, managing financial stress, and improving social connection and well-being.

The moderator of the CMSI panel was Caitlin Thompson, Vice President of the Community Partnerships at the Cohen Veterans Network. The organization’s 15 clinics have gone “completely virtual” to aid veterans, service members and military family’s health needs.

“As time goes on, we’re going to be seeing more people who have “adapted” to the new normal but are now starting to realize they need to get outside help for their well-being,” said Thompson.

For a full recording of the virtual town hall, please visit the CMSI website.