Mental Health Matters

Last night I participated in a Twitter chat, which I do most Wednesday evenings. The topic for this chat was mental health, and how high schools now have social clubs that both fight the stigma of seeking mental health assistance and to promote the benefits of using mental health professionals.

While working on our current puzzle today, thinking through the past few weeks, few months and past year, it hit me hard about why we are having an increase in rates of anxiety, drug abuse, domestic violence, and suicides.

Schools, jobs, and family dynamics kept running through my mind.

If you are a parent of a child with special needs or behavior issues, not only are schools a support system in meeting your child’s needs, it is also a respite for you. Having those few hours of separation helps recharge your reserves to take care of your child when they return. When school is not in session, and living in a society where we are expected, in most cases, to just handle it, being the caretaker all day every day would wear on anyone.

If you are a service worker, and got laid off in March or April during the lock-down, then called back when things started opening again, only to find out with this third wave, your employer is closing the doors for good this time, what do you do? Unemployment is never the same as one’s paycheck. The government has decided no more help is necessary. How do you pay rent, buy food, pay utilities, cover childcare, and satisfy basic household expenses?

Worse yet, what if your employer is open, but your child’s school is closed? How do you choose between leaving your seven-year-old child alone, because you are a single parent, while you have to go wait on people who believe wearing a mask is an affront to their personal liberties, or not working? Who pays the bills? Who ensures the safety of your child? What do you do because asking grandparents is not a choice because of risk of exposure to Covid due to your job?

What do you do if you work at a job where you know if you miss work, they will fire you, but your child’s school lets you know at 7:00PM one evening the schools will be shifting to virtual learning the very next day? You can’t lose your job, but you also can’t leave your three kids with your 11-year-old all day because your wife is active duty and serving overseas.

What do you do if your spouse, stressed from being at home with everyone without a break, lost a job and a parent, and the bill collectors are knocking on the door expecting to be paid begins abusing you?

What if you are a super extrovert and the way you recharge is by being around lots of people by often entertaining? And because you live alone, you haven’t really seen anyone face-to-face since March?

What if you are a person of color, or an “other”, dealing with the people elected to protect you, are now attacking you in the news and through lack of action on a pandemic, police shootings, and racist white supremacists marching in the streets after being encouraged by the man in the Oval Office?

What if, (fill in the blank)?

Any one of these things can be a major stressor! Having multiple of these on an ongoing basis, and getting worse due to inaction by elected leaders, is even more stressful than ever. Plus we live in a country where mental health through insurance is woefully inadequate if you have insurance. How do we deal with it as a society?

Unfortunately we deal with it through consuming ever more alcohol, abusing opioids and other drugs, lashing out at anyone around us, harming loved ones, or committing suicide.

Even for those of us with excellent support systems in place, it is extremely wearing. I can only imagine what it must be like to not know day-to-day about one’s employment, childcare, or schooling!

So everyone, take a moment today to please reach out to someone, or someones, who may live alone, may have lost their job, may have children with special needs, may have children with behavioral issues, may be a single parent, may have recently lost a loved one, or the myriad of other bad things that can happen to us. Reach out to check on them, offer to help in some way, just listen to them, but make some connection. That small connection, that small gesture, that small bit of help, may be what helps that person make it through the day, a ray of hope to carry them through, something that saves their life.

Don’t hesitate! Do it now as tomorrow may be too late.

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