Pandemics take a toll on our mental health | Editorial

We were wholly unprepared for the way in which 2020 has been testing the modern world.

Economically, socially, physically and environmentally — from a global pandemic to raging wildfires on the west coast — people are feeling pushed to their limits.

If you or someone you know needs help, there are organizations and professionals who are very willing to assist you. It’s okay to ask for what you need. It’s okay to ask those you care about what it is they need.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and awareness on this topic is especially important due to the increased stress and anxiety people may be experiencing with COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says stress during an infectious disease outbreak can cause fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on; changes in sleep or eating patterns; difficulty sleeping or concentrating; worsening of chronic health problems; worsening of mental health conditions and increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances. For tools to help cope, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/managing-stress-anxiety.html and https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/mental-and-emotional-well-being.

The Washington State Department of Health and the University of Washington’s Forefront Suicide Prevention have partnered with the state’s Health Care Authority, Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Social and Health Services and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to ask Washingtonians to #BeThe1To help prevent suicide.

According to the DOH, normalizing conversation around mental health helps to break the stigma. Try the following steps with someone you are concerned about (https://intheforefront.org/LEARN/).

• Learn to recognize the warning signs.

• Empathize with the person you’re concerned about and listen to what they say.

• Ask them if they are thinking about suicide. It’s okay to ask someone directly.

• And if they say yes, they are, remove the danger — the method they’re thinking of using.

• Help them with next steps, such as calling or texting a crisis line.

The starting place can be just reaching out to loved ones to show them you care, checking in through a text and simply asking, “How are you?”

If you are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, or if someone you know is in crisis, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat online, https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. Confidential support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. For support via text on the Crisis Text Line, start a conversation by texting “HEAL” to 741741.