How are you handling the COVID-19 crisis?

With everyone isolated at home for weeks, and many New Jerseyans recently losing their jobs, there is increasing concern about the mental health of the Garden State.

During the daily COVID-19 update on Thursday, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli pointed out the pandemic is causing a growing amount of stress and anxiety, even among those who have never had issues before.

“Social separation is key to fighting this virus. But it also is keeping us from the direct contact and support of those we depend on," she said.

She said a number of different factors are involved here, including “being in our homes alone, perhaps for extended periods of time, or having to balance working from home with helping children with their home schooling, or worrying about potential exposure.”

“During these times, it’s important for everyone to practice self-care. Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Connect with family and friends through video-chat or by phone.”

She also recommended to “try to stick to a routine as much as possible, exercise, eat healthy meals, try to get some sleep.”

She said to help Garden State residents manage these stressors, the New Jersey Mental Healthcares hotline has been launched at 1-866-202-HELP.

Specialists are available every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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The state Department of Human Services has partnered with Access of St. Joseph’s Health in Paterson to create a free support helpline for those who are hearing impaired at 973-870-0677, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Access to tele-mental health is being expanded for those on Medicaid.

Gov. Phil Murphy said as we isolate, there is also a spirit of coming together to fight a common enemy — the novel coronavirus. But “that’s not everybody. Folks who suffer from mental health challenges, depression, suicidal tendencies — some folks clearly get left behind by this.”

He added “we are all concerned about this and that’s why we encourage anyone who is struggling to reach out for help.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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