Thursday, December 3, 2020
Dec. 3, 2020

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In Our View: Help available for mental health concerns

The Columbian
Published:

We’ll get right to the point:

• Clark County Mental Health Crisis Services can be reached at 800-626-8137.

• The Southwest Washington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness can be reached at 360-695-2823 or www.namiswwa.org.

• And Clark County Teen Talk provides “nonjudgmental support for teens, by teens” at 360-397-2428, by text at 360-984-0936 or online at clark.wa.gov/community-services/teen-talk.

Other resources are available, as well, with mental illness and depression being among the side effects of the coronavirus pandemic. With routines being disrupted, financial stress being common, and health concerns being preeminent, it is common to feel a sense of isolation and loss.

“People with mental illness are doing a dive, for so many reasons,” Kim Schneiderman, executive director of mental health peer-support agency NAMI Southwest Washington told The Columbian for a story headlined “Pandemic, winter may add up to mental health crisis in Clark County.” “But the ‘normies’ (people without mental illness) are also going to be impacted, in a way that’s very unique to our time. . . . We really want to try to stave off what’s happening or it will come crashing down on us very shortly.”

That is not unique to Clark County. The Centers for Disease Control says 31 percent of Americans have reported anxiety and depression during COVID-19, and 11 percent have considered suicide. As Dr. Brennan Spiegel wrote for Scientific American: “Now, health care organizations must decide how to rapidly scale and deploy behavioral health care to a geographically widespread and increasingly isolated populace. There is no time to wait for expansion of the mental health workforce.”

On top of that, research released last week from the University of Oxford finds that nearly 1 in 5 people diagnosed with COVID-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months. “We of course don’t know, in longer-term follow-ups, whether these risks will go on increasing,” one of the study’s authors said.

Among the difficulties in dealing with coronavirus — regarding either physical health or mental health — is that the disease is new. Long-term effects will take years to assess, and most Americans have never lived through economic shutdowns or widespread health risks brought about by the pandemic.

And with the calendar reading mid-November, winter weather can increase the anxiety. Seasonal affective disorder, a result of winter’s shorter daylight hours, long has been linked to depression, and experts fear that it will combine with the pandemic to exacerbate the mental health crisis.

As Schneiderman noted, people already struggling with mental illness are particularly susceptible: “They’ve lost their groups, their doctors, their therapists, their friends. They’ve lost their routines. They’ve lost the place where they go have coffee. They’ve lost it all — all the very things we tell them they need to have in their lives.”

The Columbian has published warning signs of suicide, and advice is available online from the CDC and other outlets. Most important, if people have concerns about their health or the health of a loved one, they should speak with a health care professional or reach out to one of the local organizations offering assistance.

The pandemic has brought unprecedented stress and difficulties. It is essential that we all watch out for each other, remembering that we are in this together and that help is available.

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