Psychologist Advocates “Vaccination” for Mental Health Problems Related to the Pandemic

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Psychologist Dr. Lawrence E. Shapiro, an expert on emotional intelligence, advocates teaching people resiliency skills to help them deal with the psychological problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. His company, Between Sessions Resources, has created a variety of tools that teach these skills, including free printable games for the family.

The Family Meeting Game

Mental health problems are preventable even in times of extreme stress. Learning resiliency skills can prevent symptoms and other self-defeating behaviors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented level of mental health problems. In a report released by the Robert Graham Trust and the Well Being Trust, as many as 75,000 people in the U.S. could die of “deaths of despair” triggered by psychological problems related to the pandemic. Deaths of despair refer to deaths caused by suicide or drug and alcohol abuse. These problems are largely attributed to massive unemployment and social isolation. While this level of psychological suffering is almost unimaginable, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Stress associated with the pandemic has triggered widespread depression, anxiety, and other severe mental health problems. The American Psychological Association has predicted a rise in domestic violence and child abuse resulting from the stress of social isolation and sheltering in place.

“However, people need to realize that mental health problems can be prevented, just like physical health problems,” explains psychologist and author Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D. “For decades, we’ve known that people can be taught resiliency skills which can help ‘vaccinate’ them against the effects of depression and anxiety, as well as behavioral problems like using alcohol and food to cope with stress. We can teach resiliency skills to children, teens, adults, and even whole families. These are difficult times, but we have the mental health tools to make a tremendous difference in people’s lives. Like vaccinations against physical disease, these tools can be used to help people fight off the emotional effects of the pandemic as well as the inevitable emotional stressors we encounter throughout our lives. Teaching people resiliency skills has even been shown to improve their physical health by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, which in turn improves the immune system.”

Shapiro’s company, Between Sessions Resources, publishes psychological tools for counselors and psychotherapists to use as homework assignments for their clients. In the last two months, he has turned his attention to downloadable tools, including the interactive workbook Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic, which includes 44 worksheets to help people cope with specific pandemic-related problems and develop general resiliency skills. Shapiro notes, “Resiliency skills, like optimism and emotional communication, are teachable. These skills not only help protect us from the negative impact of stress and the effects of trauma, research also tells us they can help improve our physical health, lowering blood pressure and even boosting our immune systems.” Shapiro is considered an expert on developing emotional intelligence skills, having published more than 100 books, workbooks, and therapeutic games on the subject, including The Depression Workbook, Stopping the Pain: A Workbook for Teens Who Self-Injure, and Bounce Back: A Game That Teaches Resiliency Skills.

The company has also produced printable games to help families work together and support each other while dealing with the upheaval caused by the pandemic. The Family Meeting Game is a complete board game used to stimulate communication and positive problem solving. It contains questions specific to the unique family problems caused by the pandemic. The Family Dinner Card Game is intended to promote family support and bonding through humorous and thoughtful questions. There is also a Spanish version of this game. These printable games are available for free on the company’s website https://CounselingStore.com.

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