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KSMU is dedicated to broadcasting critically important information as our community experiences the COVID-19 pandemic. Below, you'll find our ongoing coverage.

During A Time Of High Anxiety, Burrell CEO Offers Tips On Coping

Pabak Sarkar

Anxiety is high right now as the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S.  People are avoiding close contact with one another, and that can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Dr. C.J. Davis, president and CEO of Burrell Behavioral Health, said at a press briefing Friday those feelings are normal.  “We’re anticipating the worst…we’re living with fear in the background every single day.”

He said there are primarily four groups of people experiencing feelings of anxiety right now:  Those that are worrying about COVID-19, and the illness is dramatically impacting their daily lives; those with a pre-existing medical condition; frontline healthcare workers; and children and adolescents.

Symptoms to watch for in yourself and others, he said, are:  Generalized worry that you’re having a difficult time controlling; differences in attention and concentration; intermittent ups and downs in your mood; disturbances in sleep; increased physical complaints; and increased substance use. 

“Those are natural, secondary byproducts of the anxiety we’re all encountering,” he said.

If you’re having trouble dealing with the fear surrounding the coronavirus, Davis suggested keeping your day organized; practice good mental healthcare, including good nutrition, and getting enough sleep; stay away from substances; keep your days busy; and limit your access to social media.

“We certainly don’t want you parked in front of the screen and feeling more worried about the circumstances around you,” he said.

He wants to be sure everyone understands that social distancing does not mean social isolation, and he prefers the term "physical distancing."  He suggested staying connected with others through text messaging, through phone calls and through platforms like Skype. 

“It’s important that you develop your own support system right now,” said Davis.

Those that don’t have a support system, he said, can reach out to places like Burrell Behavioral Health. The organization offers telephone services for anyone who isn’t able to go to a physical location.  The number to call for care is (417) 761-5500.  Those in crisis and who need immediate help should call 1-800-494-7355.  More information is available at

“This is a moment that we all realize that it’s important for us to talk about what we’re feeling,” said Davis.

Parents should watch for symptoms of anxiety in their children and adolescents, according to Davis.  “Are they experiencing more isolation?  Are they experiencing more difficulty with concentrating and attention?  Are they experiencing any sleep disturbances?  He said that doesn’t mean they have a mental health condition, but they are having a natural reaction to some of the fears the general public is experiencing.  Adults should talk to kids “in age appropriate ways” about how to deal with the worry and fear they might be experiencing, he said.  And reach out for professional help if needed.

He reminds people that the second leading cause of death in Missouri for adolescents is suicide.  And Greene County is above the national average in the number of adolescent suicides. 

While services might eventually have to be administered completely by telephone as offices shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Davis said Burrell mental health professionals will continue to be available to help those who need care.