No matter how isolated we may feel, if depression, anxiety or overusing drugs or alcohol are becoming a problem, there is help available, said a panel of mental health experts Tuesday.

The help may be by phone, Zoom video or other online forums, but it’s available to anyone, they said.

The online roundtable was convened by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, who said the $2 trillion CARES Act, signed March 27, provided $425 million “for certified community behavioral health clinics, to assist with suicide-prevention programs, to do emergency response” and provide other mental health services.

The panel was composed of Lisa Winjum, director of the Connecticut chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Margaret Watt and Giovanna Mozzo, co-directors of The Hub, which coordinates mental health and addiction services in Fairfield County, Allen Levy, a psychotherapist in Westport, and Commissioner Miriam Delphin-Rittmon of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“As people are feeling stressed, anxious and isolated, NAMI is here for you, even if you’ve never heard of us before today,” Winjum said. “And even if you’ve never attended one of our live support groups, we have an online support group that can meet your needs.”

Winjum said the Young Adult Connection Community, for ages 18 to 29, “is really leading the way with NAMI’s online programming for people, because they’re used to doing all this online work. … Every day they have a coping skill, and we’re going A to Z.”

The first and most important, she said, is “ask for help. You aren’t alone. There is help out there.” She said the young adult group is working on “providing connection for young adults during this time of social isolation” with virtual tea parties, movie nights and a statewide online graduation party. The group also is focusing on dealing with grief.

Other support groups at namict.org are available for family members, individuals, veterans, people recovering from opioid addiction and for their family members. On May 28, a conversation about grief will be based on “Broken Hallelujahs: Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life” by Beth Allen Slevcove. NAMI has a “warm line,” 860-882-0236, and Winjum said the calls have “increased dramatically” since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Watt said May is Mental Health Awareness Month and that the issue “is more real to everyone in the state and the country right now than it ever has been. … There are some people who are extra vulnerable and that’s people who have a pre-existing behavioral health condition, if you’ve already got depression and now you’re further isolated, people who live alone in general and also people who live in congregate settings and can’t spread out and can’t get away from that either.” Resources are listed at thehubct.org.

“This is really unprecedented. … It’s not a natural disaster, it’s not an act of violence. It’s this kind of an invisible enemy that makes some of us scared to go outside or to hug someone when we need a hug,” Watt said. A conversation May 15 will focus on the long-term impacts, including the mental health implications of economic hardship, she said.

Watt said “warm lines” are available for those who are not in crisis but who need to talk to a peer “who gets it,” who’s “been there, done that.” Other services are available for those in recovery. “When we’re all stressed, we have to cope in some way, so what are our coping skills? Some of them are negative, right? Some of them involve substance use,” she said.

Watt said anyone who needs therapy should reach out and that many therapists are seeing their clients online.

Levy also assured people that they should not let finances stop them from seeking help. “Do not let your insurance companies dictate to you the mental health needs that you need to have met,” he said.

Connecticut Media Group