Mental Health Awareness takes on new dimensions in 2020

Millions of Americans each year face the reality of living with a mental illness. Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 1949, by Mental Health America,1 to raise public awareness and also to shine a light on suicide.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, marks an unprecedented time. While our government officials try to stunt the spread of the coronavirus, our society is dealing with the fallout from the closure of schools and businesses, and a ban on normal social interactions and travel. The distress from this new reality will likely leave many vulnerable to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, even leading to potential suicidal ideation. It’s likely we can expect those issues to continue long after the pandemic is over.

Causes of this rise in mental health issues during this time are too numerous to list and can include: fear of COVID-19, uncertainty about the future, job loss or underemployment, financial and food insecurity, loss of routine, juggling parenting and teaching responsibilities, lack of social engagement, and isolation are playing a large part in creating anxiety, depression, and hopelessness for many. Also, weighing in is the perception that one is not safe in the world.

safeTALK, a program designed to help people recognize when a someone is struggling, states that most people with thoughts of suicide don’t truly want to die but are struggling with the pain in their lives.2

Acknowledging anxiety, depression, and hopelessness can save lives. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts or expresses the desire to harm themselves, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free, confidential support 24/7.

The CDC says that the outbreak of COVID-19 may be very stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children.3

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak may look like:
• Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
• Changes in sleep or eating patterns
• Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
• Worsening of chronic health problems
• Worsening of mental health conditions
• Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

These resources are available for you or for someone you believe is struggling with their mental health or suicidal thoughts.4

Disaster Distress Helpline (SAMHSA)
Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 800-273-8255 or Chat with Lifeline

Crisis Textline
Text TALK to 741741

Veterans Crisis Line (VA)
Call 800-273-8255 or text 838255

References:

1 Mental Health America, https://www.mhanational.org/
2 safeTALK, https://legacy.livingworks.net/programs/safetalk/
3 CDC, Stress and Coping, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html#stressful
4 APA Coronavirus Resources, https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/covid-19-coronavirus

Other posts on anxiety, depression, or suicide can be found here. 

Carol Tordella
Author: Carol Tordella