Workers grapple with unemployment while mental health concerns rise

Published: Mar. 25, 2020 at 11:37 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -It’s the tale heard across the city: laid off, no income, and now forced to stay indoors to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“It’s just trying to figure things out we’re all in this game together,” said Frank Braza. A hotel in the French Quarter laid off Frank Braza about a week ago. And since then, the uncertainty has weighed on him.

“It’s hard, I woke up with an anxiety attack this morning… having people locked inside and consistently looking at those things if you have already mental health issues and anxiety that is just a trigger to a gun,” said Braza.

Social work professors say this disaster is playing out a lot like hurricane Katrina did for this region, though the uncertainty, and inability to relocate can elicit a different set of stressors.

Tulane professor Tonya Hansel says that's why it's so important to do small, positive things every day to avoid being consumed by negative thoughts.

“It’s not easy for all of us to all of a sudden have to uproot and change their normal way of life, recognizing that and then finding something you can look forward to every day,” said Hansel.

In light of the coronavirus, the University of Holy Cross transitioned their mental health counseling program so clients could call in, bringing in even more trained counselors to answer the phone. Dr. Roy Salgado says they’ve been busier than ever.

“Right now the fear and uncertainty really seems to be the number one issue people just don’t know where to go and how this is going to proceed and that uncertainty is very unsettling for many people,” said Salgado.

Salgado says their counseling line is open to the public, and encourages if anyone begins to feel like their emotions are controlling them, to reach out for help.

“If they have a support system with which they’re spending time at home your family perhaps finding meaningful ways to connect rejoining once again with meals,” said Salgado.

“It’s an everyday battle and I know it's an everyday battle for everyone,” said Braza.

While working at the hotel Braza says his day used to be about making those around him smile, but now during uncertain times he’s working harder himself to find a bright spot and smile more with friends.

“We’re out here and we give our positive vibes and having us locked inside it’s just all this energy that we have is just put away in a box… with everyone and we’re just reaching out to each other,” said Braza.

The mental health line through holy cross is open to the public.

Though they’re not a prescribing medical provider. Salgado said they will collaborate with primary care providers if the case warrants.

The phone-in counseling sessions are being offered Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. by calling 504-398-2168.

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