Chan School’s Koenen discusses rising mental health concerns in the coronavirus era A summer like no other Keeping safe from pandemic during the holidays Feeling more anxious and stressed? You’re not alone This Thanksgiving, it may be better to forget about even trying to pretend things are normal.Instead, Karestan Koenen suggested acknowledging up-front that it will be different, difficult even. Family traditions will be disrupted, gatherings — when they occur at all — will be smaller and stranger, possibly in chilly November backyards, masked and a little awkward among those you know best. If there are empty seats at the table, the Harvard psychiatric epidemiologist said it’s important to communally remember loved ones lost during this COVID year.Koenen, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, addressed the upcoming holiday as well as the broader issue of mental health in the pandemic’s autumn and winter depths during a Facebook Live event Tuesday. Sponsored by The Forum at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and PRI’s” The World,” the event featured moderator Elana Gordon and viewers online asking Koenen questions about COVID-19’s mental health toll.Koenen suggested trying to find ways to make this Thanksgiving something positive. Reach out to family members you might normally be sharing the day with via phone, videoconference, or even an online game. Plan an activity to give the day meaning, even if it is different from your annual rite. Koenen, for example, is foregoing what has been her family’s big yearly gathering but is considering alternatives like delivering meals to those less fortunate.“[I’ve been] thinking about ways that I can give back, that might make me feel better and actually be helpful,” Koenen said. “And at the same time just recognizing that it’s going to be hard and that’s OK and thinking about creative ways that you can still do things that you used to enjoy.” “The 1918 pandemic was horrible, and it ended. … There will be an end. We will not be in this forever, keep our eye on that.” — Karestan Koenen, psychiatric epidemiologist Efforts across the University aim to reassure, entertain, connect Harvard’s Lipsitch urges public to ramp up social distancing, increase coronavirus tests Epidemiologist offers tips for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and in December You can have outdoor fun in the COVID era, Chan School expert says, but keep your distance Social distance makes the heart grow lonelier Harvard experts discuss ways to ease the rising sense of isolation and feel more connected Bringing (virtual) normalcy to the community Related Americans are dealing not only with the coronavirus’ threat to their health, but also bereavement from lost family members and friends. Distancing and other public health measures have disrupted daily lives, millions are out of work, and the early government stimulus is running out.There’s also been a summer of social unrest around racial-justice issues and one of the most bitterly contested presidential elections in memory. Despite all of that, she said, there’s been little support for mental health care from federal and state governments, even though there’s demonstrable need. Koenen said more Americans are reporting feeling depressed and anxious — an August survey by the CDC showed 40 percent of respondents suffering mental health impacts — and increasing numbers having seriously considered suicide.Most of the response to this dimension of the crisis has been at the grassroots level, leaving clinics at maximum capacity and waitlists long. On the positive side, insurers have approved telehealth visits for therapy for the first time, helping providers reach patients reluctant to come to the office, and the market has created an array of interventions in the form of smartphone apps for things like mindfulness and yoga.Ironically, Koenen said, if state and federal lawmakers are looking for the best intervention, it wouldn’t be targeted mental health legislation but rather another shot of economic stimulus. That’s because two of the biggest stressors in life are losing a job and the roof over one’s head. Providing assurance that won’t happen, she said, would go a long way toward easing the pressure on Americans. ‘Worry about 4 weeks from now,’ epidemiologist warns On a personal level, Koenen said it’s important to understand that you have tools at your disposal to salve your own mental health. Acknowledge emotions and take care of the body with exercise and diet. Taking a short walk can help ease stress and boost health, while some might also consider taking a breather from society’s constant, aggravating drumbeat: Koenen takes breaks from the news and recently deleted Twitter from her phone. For those feeling exhausted and listless, she suggested thinking of things that made you feel better in the past and trying those.Despite the dread that the coming cold, dark months may instill, Koenen said to keep reasons for optimism in mind. We know a lot more about the virus than we did during the spring surge; we know how to prevent its spread — even if we don’t always take that advice. We know a lot more about treating it and have more tools at our disposal to do so, with new treatments on the way. In addition, she said, surveys of health care workers show lower levels of negative mental health outcomes than expected at this point in the pandemic.“We’ve been amazed, actually, at how resilient the providers are,” Koenen said.In addition, she said, news about vaccines has been positive, highlighting a key lesson from earlier pandemics.“I try to remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Koenen said. “The 1918 pandemic was horrible, and it ended. … There will be an end. We will not be in this forever, keep our eye on that.”
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Sponsored Content Brought To You By Alure Home ImprovementsSometimes your garbage disposal unit can really get you into a jam. Maybe a bone leftover from a Porterhouse steak manages to slip past the dirty plates piled in the sink and goes down the drain before it’s too late—we hate when that happens! But sometimes it’s something more precious, like a wedding ring, let’s say, that slips off your finger while you’re doing the dishes and suddenly disappears in the suds. Before you know it, it winds up in the disposer by mistake. Hopefully, you spot it before the blades find it in the grinding chamber.Accidents do happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to despair over your garbage disposal.In this recent installment of Alure Home Improvement’s “60-Second Fix,” Doug Cornwell, chief operating officer of Alure Home Improvements, gets to the bottom of the garbage disposal mechanism to reveal what you need to know to stay on top of this convenient kitchen appliance.“What happens when it jams is that it shuts the power off,” says Cornwell. “Now you’ve got a situation where the disposal doesn’t work.”As if that’s not enough, sometimes water may start surging back up into the kitchen sink with the possibility of overflowing and spilling onto the floor. It can be a nerve-wracking, frustrating predicament that every home owner dreads. Fortunately, thanks to Alure’s Doug Cornwell, the solution doesn’t mean you have to ditch the kitchen sink, throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, or go down the drain with your hopes and dreams of having a good day.The first thing you’ll need is the special crank that came with the disposer when you bought it. Moral of the story: Don’t throw that tool away! Second lesson: If you kept it, remember where you put it. Third lesson: If you can’t find it, a suitable Allen wrench will do.If you’re learning these lessons too late, that’s okay. But you’ll have to make sure that a new wrench you buy from your favorite hardware store will properly fit the screw at the bottom of the garbage disposal assembly. The slot is right in the middle of the bottom, the center of the axis. Insert the wrench there and start to turn it; if it’s in the slot, the crank will move the gears and the blades inside the disposer chamber. If the wrench jams in one direction, turn it in the opposite direction. Try to rotate it completely at least two full circles. Then try a full rotation in the other direction.“Once it’s moving free, you’ve taken care of the jam,” says Cornwell.There’s a mini-circuit breaker that may pop out when the electrical system is overloaded. You’ll see that it’s a little red button on the disposal assembly. Just push the button back in and the electricity will come back on and the disposal should be back in business.That’s not too hard to get out of that jam, is it?Click here to learn more about Alure Home ImprovementsOne thing you never want to do is reach into the disposer with your fingers. Try tongs first. And remember the most important advice: For recovery missions, always make sure the garbage disposal’s power is shut off! As Cornwell says, when it’s jammed, the power shuts off automatically, but you still need to be cautious. If there’s a little object—though no less valuable to you—like a wedding ring involved, the grinding mechanism may still be able to function, so it’s always best to take precaution. And that goes for any home repair you decide to take on yourself.