The potential mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are profound – particularly as the pandemic spreads and has longer-term effects on the general population, the economy, and vulnerable people.
Nearly half of adults in the U.S. report worse mental health since the pandemic began. This pandemic is associated with uncertainty and unpredictability, social isolation, economic vulnerability, and other stressors that are also risk factors for suicide and accidental overdose.
“COVID-19 will cause distress and leave many people vulnerable to behavioral health problems,” said Mikelle More, Intermountain Healthcare’s senior vice president and chief community health officer. “These consequences are likely to be present for longer and peak later than the actual pandemic.”
Last September, it was announced that the state of Utah, in collaboration with public and private partners, was developing a suicide prevention campaign. The ‘Live On’ campaign was launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to start reaching out to those in need.
Utah’s CrisisLine has seen slightly increased crisis call volumes over the past two months with an average of over 200 calls per day and the individual’s calling are presenting with more severe distress.
Intermountain’s Emotional Health Relief Hotline has received 35 calls per day for a total of 1,500 calls since early April.
There has been a concerning increase in suspected fatal and non-fatal overdoses during the COVID period.
If we plan and act now, we can mitigate and offset some of the negative impacts and prevent unnecessary suffering.
We should be prepared to strengthen our prevention efforts and expand access to both physical health care, addiction services, and mental health care services.
A New Resource:
The state of Utah just launched ‘Live On’, a $2 million, a three-year, public-private campaign to increase protective social norms around mental health and suicide prevention. The website is liveonutah.org and gives people resources to find help, but to also learn about how to talk to others who are struggling and learn to have those difficult but much-needed conversations.
‘Live On’ calls itself a mantra of hope and it’s a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing the culture around suicide and mental health.
Prevention Steps at an Individual Level
If you or your family members are feeling overwhelmed, it is okay to reach out to a professional for help.
You can call:
- Your primary care provider or behavioral health provider – many are offering expanded virtual visit options.
- The COVID-19 Emotional Health Relief Line 1-833-442-2211 (10 am-10 pm, 7 days/week) – offers support, coping strategies, and care options for callers during this challenging time.
- The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (which routes to the UNI CrisisLine) 1-800-273-8255 (24/7)
Tips for staying mentally well:
- First is caring for ourselves. Getting some exercise, even if just a few short walks. Try to maintain a routine. Find a balance in how you consume news and look for intellectual engagement in places other than the internet. Remember the activities that bring you joy and try to continue them in some way.
- The second is to stay connected with people you care about using technology. Try not to self-isolate. It’s normal to feel a lot of different emotions right now and important to talk with people you trust.
- The third is to try to remember that things will get better eventually and get back to normal. The world is not coming to an end. People are good and will help each other get through this.