COVID-19 has taking its toll on the mental health of Americans. (Courtesy of USC)
COVID-19 has taking its toll on the mental health of Americans. (Courtesy of USC)

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continue to rise in Prince George’s County, a forum emphasized one integral part of a person’s well-being that must be protected: mental health.

“One of the things we found when COVID-19 hit is by no stretch of the imagination does technology serve as an adequate replacement for true, genuine, authentic physical interaction,” said Ninah Jackson, a senior at Oxon Hill High School and student member of the county school board. “What we’re missing is the comfort that we took in knowing that we had a semblance of normalcy in our day-to-day lives.”

Jackson participated on a virtual panel Monday, Nov. 30 on the topic of mental health as part of ongoing series hosted by County Council member Monique Anderson-Walker (D-District 8) of Fort Washington.
The discussion focused on improving mental health during the coronavirus pandemic. Prince George’s leads the state of Maryland with more than 41,500 confirmed cases and nearly 920 deaths.

Jackson, 18, wasn’t the only person at the hearing to offer advice. While she spoke from from a student perspective, the matter was also addressed by a motivational speaker, a clinical psychologist and a mental health therapist.

Jackson, 18, said adults can share their personal struggles with young people.

“It teaches the student how to deal with it that talking and venting and sharing your grievances is one of the many ways that you can utilize your feelings productively,” she said. “Tough times always create opportunities for bonding and openness, if utilized correctly.”

Don’t forget about young adults, says Jonathan Harris, a native of Fort Washington who works as an area coordinator in the office of residence life at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

While on the campus, Harris, 30, delivered meals to students quarantined who contracted COVID-19.

Harris, 30, said before the Thanksgiving holiday, he hadn’t seen his family since July.

“There were several phases throughout the semester I felt kind of homesick,” said Harris, also a motivational speaker and author of three books including “Girls with Pearls.” “I know those who lived in other states might have felt the same way.”

Harris also said the job market can bring anxiety and depression.

In the first four months of the pandemic presence in Maryland, about 125,000 Prince George’s residents filed for unemployment.

A family atmosphere can boost a person’s spirits, said Monica Banks Greene, a clinical psychologist who runs a private practice that addresses mental health issues.

For instance, her clients will have a therapist, psychiatrist and a life coach “to help people achieve their goals and provide support as a team.”

Green suggested people start a “gratitude journal” to jot any thoughts before going to bed to restore and heal yourself.

In the latter part of the virtual discussion, Tyreese McAllister, a therapist and a first responder who helps with mental health crises, lead a breathing exercise.

McAllister asked everyone to inhale through the nostrils, hold your breath for a few seconds and then breathe out through the mouth.

She also recently started to rub essential oils in her masks and recommended the practice to a client who suffers from anxiety.

“It really helped me keep a good balance,” she said. “Essential oils in my mask is extremely helpful.”

McAllister summarized how mental health should be just as important as people brushing their teeth every day.

“If you don’t take care of your mental health, it can take you out of here,” she said.

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Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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