NAMI – COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources


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I’m having a lot of anxiety because of the Coronavirus. Please help.
We get it. It’s hard to sift through the messages and information coming at us. Worse, the “unknown
unknown” (not knowing what you don’t even know) can cause even greater anxiety for those of us who are panic-prone.

What can you do?
1. Remember that knowledge is power. Understanding the factors that affect a person’s immune
response to COVID-19 will matter as much as, or more than, understanding the virus! Poor lung
health caused by smoking, lack of adequate health care, suppressed immune systems, and/or
populations particularly susceptible to infectious diseases, such as the elderly, have been
particularly affected by COVID-19. Yes, there is risk, but for the vast majority the risk is not
commensurate with the degree of obsession and panic that media and social media coverage of the
virus has bred.

2. Don’t accept everything you read or hear. Keep in mind that news outlets are profit-driven and the
age-old adage, “if it bleeds it leads,” can result in exaggerated reporting. Look beyond the numbers
and arm yourself with information. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides
information and frequent updates on the COVID-19’s spread, severity, risk assessment, etc. To
subscribe to the CDC’s email and text message service, visit CDC Subscription Service.

3. Put things in perspective:
• In 2017, nearly 40,000 people in the U.S. died from a fall in the home.
• CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in 9 – 45 million illnesses, 140,000 – 810,000
hospitalizations, and 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.
• The fatality rate of COVID-19 is 2% — higher than the flu but lower than SARS (10%) or MERS (30%).
• More than 80% of coronavirus cases are mild.

4. Get your emotional support system in place:
• Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible; take care of your basic needs and
employ helpful coping strategies: rest during work or between shifts, eat healthy food and
engage in physical activity.
• Stay connected with others and maintain your social networks:
▪ Have the emails and phone numbers of close friends and family at your fingertips.
▪ Stay connected via email, social media, video conference and telephone.
• Find a free online support group (see page 3 for a list of options).
• Reach out to your local NAMI Affiliate or State Organization for information on support
programs in your area.
• Visit the NAMI Resource Library, which provides an extensive list of in-person and online
support groups, and other mental health resources.
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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• Contact the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline (800) 985-5990 that provides 24/7, 365-day-ayear crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural
or human-caused disasters.
• Have the number of several Warmlines (emotional support hotlines) at your fingertips.
• Call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, between 10:00 am
and 6:00 pm EST for mental health resources.
• National Mental Health Consumer’s Self-Help Clearinghouse is a nationwide directory to locate
local consumer-driven mental health services, including resources such as Clubhouses, crisis
prevention/respite services, drop-in Centers, employment resources, housing, peer case
management and support. The website maintains search function for directory of local CDS
(consumer-driven services).
5. Take control and incorporate preventative measures
• Wash your hands. See the CDC’s list of preventative measures.
• Avoid watching, reading or listening to news reports that cause you to feel anxious or
distressed. A near-constant stream of news reports can cause anyone to feel anxious or
distressed. Instead, seek CDC updates and practical guidelines at specific times during the day.
• Be supportive to others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving
support as well as the helper.
I’m quarantined – lonely and isolated even further – what can I do?
The good news is that there are numerous online support communities and emotional support hotlines to help
you if you are quarantined:
Building Resilience
• Visit the CDC’s page on Stigma and Resilience that discusses COVID-19’s impact on mental
health, and how we can reject stigma and build resilience during this time.
• American Psychological Association offers an excellent online resource called the “Road to
Resilience,” a step-by-step guide that helps individuals develop a personal strategy for
enhancing resilience.

Finding Phone Support
A warmline is a confidential, non-crisis emotional support telephone hotline staffed by peer volunteers
who are in recovery. Callers will find an empathetic listener to talk through their feelings. To find a
warmline that serves your area, visit the NAMI HelpLine Warmline Directory on the NAMI Resource
Library page.

Finding Online Support Communities
• NAMI hosts online communities where people exchange support and encouragement. These
Discussion Groups can easily be joined by visiting
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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• 7 Cups:
Free online text chat with a trained listener for emotional support and counseling. Also offers feefor-service online therapy with a licensed mental health professional. Service/website also offered in
• Emotions Anonymous:
An international fellowship of people who desire to have a better sense of emotional well-being. EA
members have in person and online weekly meetings available in more than 30 countries with 600
active groups worldwide. The EA is nonprofessional and cannot be a complement to therapy.
• Support Group Central:
Offers virtual support groups on numerous mental health conditions – free or low-cost. Website also
offered in Spanish.
• TheTribe Wellness Community:
Free, online peer support groups offering members facing mental health challenges and/or difficult
family dynamics a safe place to connect. Support groups include Addiction, Anxiety, Depression,
HIV/AIDS, LGBT, Marriage/Family, OCD and Teens.
Website featuring 200+ online support groups.
• For Like Minds:
Online mental health support network that allows for individuals to connect with others who are
living with or supporting someone with mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and
stressful life events.
• 18percent:
Offers a free, peer-to-peer online support community for those struggling with a wide range of
mental health issues.
• Psych Central:
Offers online mental health resources, quizzes, news, an “Ask the Therapist” function, and online
support communities.
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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I don’t have health insurance or a regular doctor – how can I get care?
Because of various causes (lack of access to health care, lack of medical insurance, homelessness, etc.) patients
with serious mental illness die earlier, have more medical illnesses, and receive worse medical care than those
in the general population. This is particularly challenging with an epidemic such as COVID-19 affecting a
What you can do:
• To begin with, you may wish to consult your local NAMI Affiliate regarding low-cost health clinics in
your area. To find your nearest NAMI Affiliate, click on your state through the Find Your Local NAMI
• Federally funded health centers can also be a good resource for those without health insurance or
with a limited budget. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. Many of these centers
include mental health services. Find a federally funded health center near you.
• National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics are safety-net health care organizations that utilize
a volunteer/staff model to provide a range of medical, dental, pharmacy, vision and/or behavioral
health services to economically disadvantaged individuals. Offers a Find A Clinic function on its
• Websites, such as and, allow you to conduct a zip-code based search for local resources including affordable medical and mental health clinics, housing, food, employment, etc. You can also dial 211 from your phone to access information on local
• For resources on medical/non-mental health (children’s health care, dental care, eye care, women’s
health), the Free Clinic Directory offers a free clinic treatment locater by zip code; each clinic listing
offers reviews, services provided, and contact information for clinics for the uninsured, no cost and
affordable medical clinics.

What if I’m quarantined and can’t get my medication? Will there be a shortage?
You can ask your health care provider about getting a 90-day supply vs. a 60- or 30-day supply. If this is not
possible, or if health care providers deny/decline making accommodations, challenge the decisions at least
three times. Decision-makers on making health plan adjustments may change if/as conditions worsen.
Keep in mind that many cold/flu medications should not be taken along with antipsychotics and/or
antidepressants. Please consult your pharmacist or prescribing health care professional for any potential
medication contraindications.
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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My business is suffering as a result of the Coronavirus. What assistance programs are available to help?
Contact your state’s department of Public Health or Small Business Services website for local programs
that may be set up to provide financial assistance to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. In some
areas, businesses may qualify for low-interest loans and employee retention grants.
General financial assistance
• Need Help Paying Bills:
Provides information on assistance programs, charity organizations, and resources that provide help
paying bills, mortgage and debt relief (financial, rent and government assistance).
• Aunt Bertha:
An online resource that connects users to free and reduced cost local resources such as medical
care, food, housing, transportation and much more. Website also offered in Spanish.
• 211 /
Dial 211 from any phone (mobile or landline) or visit to search for contact information
by zip code; service refers callers to appropriate agencies/community organizations that offer
emergency financial assistance; available in most areas. Website also offered in Spanish.
• HelpWhenYouNeedIt:
An online service that connects users to over 350,000 listings nationwide of private and public
resources for food pantries, stores that accept food stamps, assisted living facilities, domestic
violence and homeless shelters, mental health & substance use treatment, free clinics, legal and
financial assistance.
• Help with Bills:
Provides information about government programs that help with bill payment, temporary
assistance, jobs/unemployment, credit, etc. Website and Helpline also offered in Spanish.
Medical care / Hospital bills
• The Assistance Fund:
For those who qualify for financial support, service provides patient advocates to assist in securing
financial assistance for co-payments, prescriptions, deductibles, premiums and medical expenses.
Spanish-language translation service also available.
• Rise Above the Disorder:
Connects users with resources for finding a therapist, answering mental health questions and
applying for grants to cover the cost of therapy.
• Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN):
Provides underinsured patients with financial assistance through disease-specific funds that provide
access to progressive therapies. Spanish-language calls accepted.
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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• Patient Advocate Foundation:
Helps federally and commercially insured people living with life-threatening, chronic, and rare
diseases. Offers co-pay relief program to provide direct financial assistance to insured patients who
meet certain qualifications to help them pay for needed prescriptions and/or treatment. Their
website also has many other resources and services. Website also offered in Spanish.
• HealthWell Foundation:
Provides financial assistance for underinsured to afford critical medical treatments through
“Disease Funds” (note, typically for chronic physical diseases – not mental health conditions).
Website also offered in Spanish.
Prescription Medication
• NAMI Getting Help Paying for Medications page:
• PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool:
A search engine for many of the patient assistance resources that the pharmaceutical industry
• Needy Meds: (800) 503-6897 /
Offers a HelpLine and website information on financial assistance programs to help defray cost of
medication. Website also offered in Spanish.
• RX Assist:
Provides up-to-date directory of free and low-cost medicine programs and other ways to manage
medication costs.
• RX Hope:
A free patient assistance program to assist people in need obtain critical medications.
Provides coupons online for downloading/printing and can be brought to the pharmacy to see if it
will give consumer a lower price or beat their copay.
• Blinkhealth Prescription Assistance:
Individuals (with or without insurance) pay upfront for medication online and then take a voucher to
their pharmacy. Accepts calls 8 a.m.-10 p.m. M-F, 9 a.m.-7p.m. weekends (EST); Spanish language
option on patient assistance line.
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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Are people who have a mental illness at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19?
While there’s no correlation between having a mental illness and getting COVID-19, there are certain
factors that make the population more susceptible for the reasons highlighted below. You can read on the
CDC’s website about who is at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
• Smoking
• Lack of health insurance and/or consistent medical care
• Unstable housing
• Incarcerated populations
• Poor hygiene
• Elderly

Will taking my antipsychotic medication reduce my immune system?
This is inconclusive. While laboratory studies have shown that healthy mice had a reduced immunosuppressant
response to the antipsychotic medication, Risperidone, this data has not been proven in studies on humans. A
greater risk is having a mental health setback by stopping or changing medications than catching COVID-19.
Is there a vaccine or cure for COVID-19?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to
the virus. Self-neglect or poor personal hygiene are common signs or symptoms of serious mental illness and
pose a greater risk of exposure to germs and their spread.

What you can do
The CDC recommends the following everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of
respiratory diseases.
Personal hygiene:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the
bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60%
alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning
spray or wipe.
• Note – the CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect
themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people
who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of
facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close
settings (at home or in a health care facility).
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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Travel/contact with others:
• If you are sick, please stay home and seek attention from your health care provider. Do not return
to work until your health care provider has told you that you can do so.
• If you have been instructed by a public health official or a health care provider to stay home
because a member of your household is sick with respiratory diseases symptoms, please do so.
• Reassess any travel plans you have in the coming months, assess your own risks and of your loved
ones, and make decisions consistent with what you think is best regarding travel, and/or contact
with others/crowds.

I lost a loved one to Coronavirus. Where can I find support?
Many grief support services are offered through organizations at the community level. A good place to start is
to contact your local NAMI Affiliate. To find your nearest NAMI Affiliate, click on your state through the
Find Your Local NAMI menu. Additional options include:
• Most local hospices offer free or sliding scale grief therapy or can refer individuals to grief support
in their area. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Association maintains a list of hospices
across the country.
• Grief Share hosts free, in-person grief recovery support groups across the country.
• is a website that acts as a portal linking people who are grieving after a
death by suicide to an extensive online directory of resources and information to help them cope
with their loss, including a link to suicide bereavement support groups directory.

I’m a smoker. Am I more likely to catch COVID-19? What should I do?
Due to weakened respiratory systems, smoking increases the severity of diseases such as influenza and MERS
(another coronavirus). COVID-19 is a disease that mostly affects the lungs. Also, individuals who are chronically
exposed to second-hand smoke may also be vulnerable to respiratory infections.
What you can do:
If you are a smoker, consider quitting smoking immediately. Consult your doctor about smoking
cessation programs or over-the-counter aids like nicotine gum or patches, which can be purchased at
most pharmacies without a prescription. Additionally, is a website that contains links to
nationwide Smoking Cessation Programs, information on How to Quit Smoking for Free, Quit
Smoking Free Patches and more.

How does homelessness increase risk of contracting COVID-19?
People with mental illness can experience times of homelessness, which places them at greater risk. People
living outdoors often do so in close quarters and lack the ability to maintain basic hygiene, including
precautions such as hand washing. They may also face more danger from serious infection because of existing
illnesses or frequent use of drugs or alcohol — factors with the potential to make a case of COVID-19 more
severe. And, since some homeless people also move often, it makes it harder to reach them for treatment and
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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potentially increases the spread of the virus if they are carriers. Finally, sustained exposure to the elements
and living among a population with similar challenges can weaken the immune system. It also reduces the
likelihood of access to medical care necessary for early detection and treatment.
What you can do:
• For immediate and emergency housing, the online Homeless Shelter Directory provides
information on homeless shelters and other social services throughout the country.
• Consult or dial 211 from any cell or landline for a list of shelters in your area.
• National Mental Health Consumer’s Self-Help Clearinghouse is a nationwide directory to locate
local consumer-driven services, including housing. The website maintains search function for
directory of local CDS (consumer-driven services).
• See section above regarding finding affordable/free medical clinics in your area.

My loved one is incarcerated, are they at increased risk for exposure to COVID-19?
The lack of sufficient, community-based treatment options has resulted in the drastic increase in the
incarceration of the people with mental illness. Further, people in the U.S. are incarcerated at a rate of about
one million times per month, and the number of staff who go to work and families who visit these places is
even greater. (The same goes for courts, where judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors may limit court
services or even close courts.) Also, prisons and jails generally house people based on several types of security
classifications, and when people are confined to a housing area of a jail or prison, there will be a tendency to
keep them there, without the services they are entitled to.
What you can do
Incarcerated people have Constitutional protections under the Eighth Amendment, including the right
to medical care/attention as needed to treat both short-term conditions and long-term illnesses. The
medical care provided must be “adequate.” Communication with jail/prison administration is key and
should start early by those who are incarcerated and/or their families.
If an incarcerated loved one is not receiving adequate care, families and caregivers may be their
best advocate:
• Contact the medical staff at the facility (note: contact may be limited/difficult due to
confidentiality regulations.)
• If a family member is permitted to bring medication to the jail (dependent on jail policy), bring
the individual’s current medications and all relevant records to the facility. Be sure the
medication is in the original pharmaceutical packaging with dispensing instructions.
• If your loved one is being denied treatment:
▪ File a formal complaint directly with the facility in question.
▪ Contact the state’s Department of Corrections office is the issue remains unresolved.
NAMI HelpLine
Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., EST
(800) 950-6264
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources
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▪ Contact your state’s Governor.
▪ Contact your state’s protection and advocacy agency, which is responsible for protecting
the rights of individuals with disabilities.
▪ You can also contact your state’s affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
▪ Consult the American Bar Association’s Find Legal Help search function where you can
locate the legal referral service for your area.

I’m the aging parent of an adult child living with a serious mental illness. I want to be sure they are taken
care of.
What you can do
Visit the NAMI Online Knowledge Center where you can learn about what is involved in Creating a
Long-term Care Plan for a Loved One Living with a Serious Mental Illness.

More information can be found here: