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Commentary – Panic attacks prompt call for help

April 6, 2021



Teacher shares story of reaching out due to COVID stress

Editor’s note: The following article was written by an Alberta teacher whose identity we’ve agreed to conceal.

I need help. It is a simple phrase that carries a lot of weight. It took a pandemic filled with numerous panic attacks for me to be able to admit this to myself. When I finally sought out the help I needed, it was more difficult to find than I anticipated.

I had my first panic attack shortly after the declaration of the pandemic. I was anxious about my infant son contracting the virus and had difficulty coping with being unable to visit family. My husband cautiously suggested I seek help, but I resisted. I had a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me, “You’re fine. You can do this. Just keep going.”

But I wasn’t fine. I went back to work before my son reached one year of age. While this alleviated my need for adult interaction, it brought on an overwhelming amount of anxiety that I did not anticipate. I felt a heavy burden on my shoulders as I worried about unknowingly having the virus and passing it to my students or family. This led to my second panic attack.

The panic attacks kept growing in frequency and duration. It took me nearly a year to speak the words, “I need help.”

My husband and I began looking at our benefits through the My ASEBP app. We were very familiar with the app, as we had used it countless times before. When we looked into counseling, it seemed as though I needed a clinical diagnosis to qualify for coverage. As I was at the end of my rope, I was determined to jump through all the necessary hoops to get the help I so desperately needed.

One day at work I decided to look through an issue of the ATA News. I happened upon a blurb about mental health with a corresponding website. I decided to visit the website and found a wealth of information. What I was surprised to find was free counseling services through Homewood Health. I asked myself, “How did I miss this?” I felt like I had understood my benefit plan, since my husband and I had used it so often.

During teachers’ convention, I attended a session on mental health. I asked where I could find more information on my benefits since, clearly, I was missing something. The overwhelming response I received was to use the app I was already too familiar with: My ASEBP. ❚


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