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Mental health professionals offer advice for those struggling with addiction during coronavirus

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Posted at 2:25 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 18:49:18-04

WHITEFISH — People struggling with substance abuse disorders find social isolation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is particularly stressful.

MTN News spoke with Dr. Doug Muir who is the behavioral health director at North Valley Hospital in Whitefish.

"The words social distancing has really cut off a lot of people from support systems and things like that," said Muir. "So, initially it had a big impact and continues to."

He explained that a loss of community puts pressure on those struggling with addiction during the coronavirus.

"It's a way of coping," said Muir. "Whether it is anxiety, stress, or depression. So, we tend to fall back on what works for us."

Muir says there is hope and resources that people can access while they're at home are available -- even if they don't have access to a health professional via telehealth. For example, there are tons of free online videos people can view, even on places like YouTube.

"Deep breathing exercises. Something for emotional regulation like dialectical behavioral therapy, a lot of good things on that," said Muir. "A lot of good things on mindfulness. There's just a lot of really good resources out there."

Clinical professional counselor Michael Edwards with North Valley Behavioral Health told MTN News that you don't have to navigate your disorder alone and that epople should reach out for help, stressing this is especially important for Montana residents.

"Montana, that has some of the highest rates of alcohol misuse," he said. "And that's coupled with the stigma for receiving mental health treatment. A lot of folks feel really alone about that. Once they found, that about ninety percent of adults with mental health or addiction issues don't receive treatment and that's with stigma. That further adds to the isolation."

Dr. Muir adds if you're already attending Alcoholics Anonymous, to keep going to maintain a normal schedule and that AA meetings are now all online. He also wants to remind people that they are not alone in their struggles.

"We are in this together and the best way to get through this together is by reaching out and accessing those support systems and still keeping up communication with folks," he said.

If you would like more resources Muir recommends the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Center for Disease Control and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Both Dr. Muir and Edwards suggest that if you're struggling with any sort of addiction or mental health disorders to reach out to a professional for help.

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