BRG launches Coping After COVID support group

HEALTHLINE: Baton Rouge General launches support group for survivors of COVID-19

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Most people who test positive for COVID-19 survive, but that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook. Some could experience long-term physical or mental health effects.

Baton Rouge General (BRG) has started a free support group called Coping After COVID to help survivors get back to normal life.

“It’s tough dealing with the lingering physical symptoms and their aftermath, from the disruption of work routines and lack of social interaction, to financial stress and even skepticism from family and friends,” said Shannon Ragusa, executive director of behavioral health services at BRG. “Add in feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, and it can really take a toll on the mind as well as the body.”

As the pandemic continues with nearly 7 million people contracting COVID-19 across the U.S., a new term has been coined to describe people experiencing the lasting effects of the virus: “long-haulers.” Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine estimate between one-third and one-half of COVID-19 patients experienced some form of mental health problem, including anxiety, depression, fatigue, or abnormal sleeping.

Ragusa says she realized BRG had the staff and resources to start a support group to help this unique group of people.

“They can share their experiences, they can share symptoms they’re having, the coping skills they’re utilizing that are working, and we can provide a licensed therapist that can just facilitate the conversation and move it along,” she explained.

Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 7, the confidential group will meet once per week for six weeks. It’s limited to ten people in a socially distanced setting at BRG’s Behavioral Wellness Center near the Mid City campus at 4045 North Blvd., Suite A. It’s an open group, meaning participants can just come to one meeting, or attend all six.

Ragusa says more groups may be added if the need arises, and staff can help refer participants to other health resources.

“[Survivors] can provide support for one another better than maybe anybody can, so we want to start there, and if there is another need that comes up, we would be able to help assist and guide them to get that need met as well,” she said.

Participants must test negative for coronavirus before attending a meeting. Registration is required. Click here for more information.

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