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Fmr. California Surgeon General Discusses COVID-19 Response

Fmr. California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris sat down with BHA Co-Chair and NAMI California CEO Jessica Cruz for a virtual discussion on the state’s behavioral health response to COVID-19.

On parity during COVID-19: “I think right now we’re all feeling a lot of stress or at least most of us are. And so I think that’s really coming to the forefront and this question of how do we support our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing during this time, I think is a really, really important question. I will tell you that in my mind that they’re not separate. That mental wellbeing is physical wellbeing, physical wellbeing is mental wellbeing. The body doesn’t distinguish. We don’t stop at the neck.”

Longer term impact? “And we recognize that COVID-19 has only made the need for trauma-informed care and for ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) screening, frankly, more acute because ACEs are only going up right now… If we’re looking at mental health and behavioral health outcomes, we see people having increased challenges.”

Key tips from the Fmr. Surgeon General’s stress playbook:

  1. Get regular exercise. “Folks might notice that when they do a good workout they actually feel a little bit better and there are real neurochemical reasons for that.”
  2. Practice mindfulness. “There’s never been a better time to download a mindfulness app on your phone or go online and find that mindfulness practice and that’s something that has been documented in research to help to reduce stress hormones.”
  3. Stick to a sleep schedule. “It turns out that the brain entrains to those sleep schedules. And when you get off those sleep schedules, your body can release more stress hormones.”

How the stress playbook came about: “I made the comment like, ‘Wow. I’m really concerned.’ … And of course if you say that anywhere near our governor, what you will be asked for is a plan and very quickly asked, ‘Okay. What can we do about it?’ And that’s what we’ve all been working really hard within Health and Human Services and across the administration is really how do we provide solutions and solutions that folks can put to use when they need them.”

The Fmr. Surgeon General’s message for the BHA Coalition: “Thank you so much for the incredible work that you all are doing every day. Behavioral health is so critically important and it’s not separate from our overall health. And I’m just grateful to be a partner for you and a champion for this work in my role as Surgeon General.”

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