As we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important for us to acknowledge the mental and emotional impact of living through a crisis.

October has been declared Mental Health Awareness Month with the goal of educating the public about mental health. During this Mental Illness Awareness Month, it’s important to recognize that there is nothing unusual about feeling worried, scared, or anxious because of the pandemic, but studies show that those caring for family members have shown an increase in depression.

A recent report based on a nationwide survey in late June from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the types of mental health challenges people are facing during the pandemic found that unpaid family caregivers reported having more symptoms of depression and anxiety. Of the approximately 5,500 people surveyed, researchers noted that unpaid caregivers reported either starting or increasing the use of alcohol or medication to cope with the stress of COVID-19 along with caring for their loved ones.

A community survey in July 2020 by the University of Pittsburg showed that the pandemic has the potential to add to the complexity of caregiving given the stay-at-home requirements, reduced access to health care services, and the vulnerability of individuals at higher risk for severe side effects. The following are a few of the key highlights from the findings:

Family caregivers reported more negative effects from the pandemic than non-caregivers. They were more likely to report taking precautions and worries about getting themselves or their care recipient sick.

They were also more likely than non-caregivers to be experiencing social isolation, anxiety and depression, fatigue, sleep disturbance, financial hardship, and food insecurity.

Family caregivers reported that the pandemic increased their caregiving responsibilities, and that providing care was more emotionally, physically, and financially difficult, largely due to interrupted access to care both for themselves and their care recipient.

It’s now more important than ever to stay connected as well as remain vigilant in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Technology has become a bridge to outside help and resources for those people who choose to stay indoors. Below are some organizations currently offering support groups beneficial to family caregivers:

• Pima Council on Aging offers family caregiver support groups scheduled by telephone and video chat. Contact Jeri at 520-305-3405 or jmorrison@pcoa.org to receive instructions for joining. Visit pcoa.org for a complete listing of resources for seniors, including information for family caregivers.

• The Parkinson’s Support Group of Green Valley & Sahuarita is offering a number of online Zoom support groups as well as lectures and other online events. Visit: gvparkinsons.org for more information.

• Powered by the Alzheimer's Association, alzconnected.org is a free online community for everyone affected by Alzheimer’s or another dementia, individuals who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s, and caregivers. Due to the COVID pandemic, all support groups are hosted via phone or video conference instead of in-person. Meeting schedules are assessed on a month-to-month basis. Locate local programs in the Community Resource Finder at alz.org/help-support/community/support-groups or contact the 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 for details.

• Posada Life Community Services offers two Caregiver Support Groups. The meetings are open to the community at no cost and are currently hosted virtually via Zoom. Denise Turner, director of Posada Life Adult Day Services, hosts weekly virtual support group meetings and the days vary. Contact Denise at 520-393-6835 or by email at: dturner@casagv.org for more information and a meeting schedule. Bill McCreery, director of Community Programs at Posada Life Community Services, hosts a Zoom online support group on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 1:30 p.m. Contact Bill at 520-393-6815 or by email at: bmccreery@casagv.org for more information. Visit the Posada Life Community Services website at: posadalife.org/community-services/casa-community-services/ to learn about the other services, including Adult Day Care, Green Valley’s only licensed adult day care program.