InDEPTH with Brad Byrd: Living emotionally with COVID-19

In Depth with Brad Byrd

(WEHT) — Brad Byrd talks to Dr. Jim Schroeder, Vice President Of The Easterseals Department of Psychology And Wellness about mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.


BB: Well in these strange and dangerous times how do we cope with COVID-19 emotionally? How do we talk to our kids about this? Joining me tonight is Dr. Jim Schroeder; he’s the vice president of the Easterseals Department of Psychology and Wellness. Easterseals is shutting down some services due to covid-19 but is continuing essential services. Dr. Schroeder, great to see you tonight. This began as a blip on our radar just three months ago…and now we’re here.
In all of your experience did you think you would ever be dealing with something like this?

JS: Never. I talked to someone recently who’s in his mid-80s that comes to the pool at Easterseals every day and I asked him have you ever seen anything like this before and he said you know, I was born during the Great Depression but to my recollection this is something very new for all of us.

BB: Working with a community of doctors to help with the emotional feelings, this is somewhat of an impromptu network that has formed.

JS: It is, it is. Easterseals is really trying to lead a response that allows anyone in this Tri-State area who’s feeling isolated, who’s feeling anxious, who’s feeling depressed, to be able to know that they can reach out and get mental help. I would note at this time most of the help that we’ll get will be through telehealth, whether it’s a phone call or whether it’s video conferencing but I really, really urge people not to be afraid, even if they’re not tech savvy or they’ve never done it this way before, we all really need a connection right now, we need an ability to just be able to kinda work through some difficult times and so we’re really leading that charge at Easterseals.

BB: With a lot of these stay at home orders throughout the country, this is kinda like perpetual cabin fever and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York says it’s okay to be afraid but there is a fear factor in all this.

JS: There’s an absolute fear factor. I think the fact that it’s so uncertain and it’s moved so quickly increases the fear for all of us and you know some people feel fear very differently. They might feel it coursing through their body, some people just have racing thoughts continuously and one of the things we have to really do is just be patient with each other, especially when we’re cooped up together and our fear responses might be different from the person next to us and I think that’s one of the first ways that we begin to kinda bat and create greater psychological health in our homes is to recognize that the way we respond to this pandemic is just, it’s very different and it’s okay but we have to be patient with each other.

BB: My wife and I were driving into St. Louis about a week and a half ago and we couldn’t help but notice how empty Interstate 64 relatively speaking was going past the great arch there in downtown St. Louis and we saw some of the eerie pictures of these empty parking lots. You mentioned talking to people, but what if you are alone, you’re the only one in that house or apartment? What do you do?

JS: You really do need to reach out in some way. I think this goes two different directions- the person feeling alone has to consider who is it that they can call or who can they reach out to but if you know people who are alone who don’t have that outlet, please, please reach out. We know one of the greatest buffers from anxiety and other psychological issues is social support. I think so often men especially are kinda conditioned not to reach out when they need people the most and so what happens is we don’t reach out and we don’t seek out support and we may feel further and further depressed or more chronically anxious and that’s certainly not something that’s good for anyone.

BB: How do you talk to your kids about this. You gotta give them a lot of credit they know something’s going on.

JS: We have 8 kids of our own at home all the way from the ages of 13 through 7 months and I think the first thing you have to do is consider just to be honest that we’re all a little nervous and we’re uncertain but I really wanna urge parents to think about the kind of messages or legacy that we want our kids to inherit and that is it’s a message of resiliency and not fear, fear beyond what’s reasonable. We talk to our kids honestly that about the risk but we also talk about a number of the things that we can do to improve the possibility of things going well which is one for example improve immunity, improve immunity through exercise, through eating well, adhering to sleep habits that we all should adhere to, you know really consume media appropriately and be careful about consuming it all the time. one of the biggest things i think that kids do is unfortunately is veg out in front of a lot of things that they’re reading or they’re watching and it’s just not healthy. We need to be very careful about that and model good things.

BB: We saw some of the video of teachers trying to maintain contact with their kids, I believe it was Cravens Elementary over in Daviess County today. And just going outdoors- that can do wonders for you.

JS: Absolutely. We see so many benefits from being outdoors, especially moving outdoors. There’s even recent studies that indicate the colors green that we see emerging right now in the springtime actually have restorative and positive mood effects. So I really encourage people, we were at the 4-H grounds on Sunday, wide open area where you could stay far away from people but you could move as much as you wanted to move. That’s really very very important because back to building a good immune system, part of it is being outdoors, part of it is just being in the weather and we encourage people to be active during this time.

BB: Emotional health, that can definitely obviously affect us physically. I’ll tell ya probably the most popular staple right now- pizza. I love pizza, but pizza every night, that’s not too good for you.

JS: Probably no, it’s not too good for you. You’re looking for the whole foods right now that are actually grown from the ground and are real and natural. If we want to build a good immune system, we can’t build it on pizza even though most of us enjoy a good pie. And again it’s kinda just interesting we’re asked to do things normally to eat well and exercise but this really puts us on to do this even more. And I think the more we do it and we send that good message for our kids, the more they inherit that this is just the way that they should live in general, not just because the coronavirus has come through.

BB: Well one thing, it is bringing families together if we are all cooped up together, so to speak so there can be some positives in that. Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Dr. Jim Schroeder of the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. We appreciate your time tonight and Jim, stay well. You’re watching Eyewitness News at 9.

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