In case you weren’t aware, May is Mental Health awareness month. This is the month put aside to raise awareness about mental illness, fight the stigma and advocate for more services. Since the pandemic, there has been a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. The pandemic was tough on all of us, even this pooch, because everything that had been normal in our daily lives suddenly changed and we are still adapting to change.
When the numbers for COVID rose in 2020, we were called into a meeting at work to talk about sending us home to work remotely. There would be no more in person counseling and all sessions would be done through tele health. At the time, no one could have predicted how long the virus would last. As the days drug on to weeks and then months, we soon found ourselves on lock down and only essential businesses were open. At first it was fun being home with Doc all the time but soon the fun turned to boredom and then I just fell into a funk. I didn’t know what to do with myself all day. After all, I had been training and working as a therapy dog since I was 5 months old. I missed my co-workers, the patients and as winter set in, it didn’t feel safe to spend time with family and friends indoors. We all became more and more isolated.
Doc was the first one to notice that I wasn’t acting like my regular cheerful self, and to be honest, Doc was having problems adjusting as well. Both of us trying to serve the patients the best we could by being supportive from our home was a challenge but we all did the best that we could. One day Doc sat down beside me on the couch and asked me, ” Are you ok Grover? I notice you have been sleeping more and that you haven’t even wanted any treats. Are you feeling depressed?” As I moved over and placed my head in her lap for comfort, she gently stroked my head and I admitted to her that I was feeling down. ” It’s ok Grover, she said, I know that it has been tough for you, but I am here for you.” Just feeling Doc’ s support and being able to talk about it was such a relief. I had not wanted to burden her with my sadness, but she told me it is so important to talk to someone you trust when you feel down.
After that day we decided we needed to figure out a better way to move forward, so we decided that we would take a walk everyday down to the park. And you know what, being out in nature and getting some fresh air helped and I started feeling a little better. It still wasn’t the same, but my mood improved and then when the stores opened back up in our suburb, the owners asked Doc to bring me in to visit and that gave me back my sense of purpose.
Today we are back at work seeing patients three days per week and able to visit family and friends, so things are better and I am my happy tail wagging self again. But lets face it, these are some tough times we are still working through, but I learned that sometimes even the helpers need help and that its ok to ask. I understand that people can feel embarrassed to ask for help because of the stigma attached, but mental illness, just like any other medical issue should be treated, not shamed.
If you or anyone you know needs help with a mental health issue, please contact the National Alliance of Mental Illness Helpline at 1-800-950-6264 or SAMHSA at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov for a referral in your area.