Coast Guard support staff offer resources to fight coronavirus anxiety

Friday marks one month since Kodiak issued a “hunker down” notice for residents. With all school activities continuing from home and many businesses partially or completely closed down, mental health professionals are recognizing a significant amount of anxiety in the community.

“I know last week when the first COVID case was diagnosed here in Kodiak, that spiked quite a bit of anxiety for people,” said Heidi Barrett-McNerney, Director of Behavioral Health at Kodiak Community Health Center. “There’s also the element of depression along with that, where people are starting to feel like this is never going to end. And, and if it does end, what is that going to look like?”

Prolonged stress and anxiety, especially for people who may not be able to keep busy with work right now, can bring up past trauma for some, according to Barrett-McNerney.

“I think for some people … it’s a bringing back some memories that they may have, trauma they experienced as a child or a young adult or even their adulthood,” she said.

She said she tells clients to focus on the present, and what they can work on now, rather than delving too far into the past or future. Even though most people’s daily routines have been disrupted by the hunker down measures, Barrett-McNerney recommends keeping as normal a schedule as possible.

“Get up in the morning at a normal time and get dressed, take a shower, put your makeup on. Whatever it is you do normally, continue those normal routines. I’m really against people staying in their pajamas all day because that creates the sense of … here I am, living in this.”

Barrett-McNerney was a guest on Thursday’s “Silver Linings” edition of The Lowdown, along with two resource specialists from the Coast Guard base, Personal Financial Management Coordinator Jody Carman and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Angie Erickson.

In addition to the resources in town, including KCHC and the community help line, Carman and Erickson provided a long list of resources for military members and their families. When a service member comes to the Office of Work-Life seeking help, said Erickson, “We’re going to help that member get the services they need, whether it’s on the Coast Guard base or off the base.”

Among the resources available through the Office of Work-Life are personal finance and location transfer advisors. Family advocacy specialists are available to assist in domestic violence and child abuse situation, along with Erickson, the sexual assault response coordinator. There are adoption reimbursement services for families with an adopted child.

Coast Guard Support offers counseling services — alternatively, service members and their families can get a referral through the Coast Guard clinic. Carman says active duty members, families and civilian employees can get 12 sessions covered at 100 percent either on base or from counseling provider in town. The base chaplain, Dave Asbury, is also a good resource, says Carman. Chaplains maintain complete confidentiality around counseling.

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