The potential mental health effects of COVID-19 are profound. The pandemic is associated with uncertainty, social isolation, and economic vulnerability—stressors linked to mental health issues. COVID-19’s mental health consequences are likely to be present for longer and peak later than the actual pandemic, according to Dr. Natalie Sergent, a child psychologist at Intermountain Healthcare.
Since the death of George Floyd, the country and state have been emotionally rocked in additional ways, said Dr. Sergent. There is a sense of collective heartbreak around this death and its aftermath, as well as awareness of the systematic, historical inequalities that plague the country.
These are the same inequalities that drive the disproportionately high cases of COVID-19 among Latinos and American Indians here in Utah and black and brown people across the country.
- Utah’s Crisis Line has seen slightly increased crisis call volumes over the past two months with an average of over 200 calls per day and the individuals’ calling are presenting with more severe distress.
- Intermountain Healthcare’s Emotional Health Relief Hotline has received 35 calls per day (1,500+) total 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.
- The state of Utah just launched Live On, a statewide public-private mental health and suicide prevention campaign, that Intermountain is participating in. It advances population-level strategies to modify attitudes and social norms to reduce suffering and save lives.
- It’s also modeled on Utah’s immensely successful Parents Empowered underage drinking prevention campaign, Live On disseminates and evaluates powerful and effective content across TV, radio, social media, and other outlets.
- Establish suicide prevention as a priority for all Utahns.
- Promote protective behaviors and beliefs – increase knowledge and acceptance around help-seeking, safe firearm storage, and stigma reduction.
- Provide hope and encourage social connection – amplify voices of healing and resiliency, especially from those with lived experience around loss and recovery, and encourage supportive relationships.
This public-private endeavor is the first time Utah has taken on a comprehensive, large-scale, multi-platform effort around the issue of suicide—one that goes beyond individual marketing or one-off messaging initiatives. Under HB 393 (2019), the Utah Legislature generously matched $1M in private funds raised. The total of $2M in public and private funds are supporting a 3-year period of robust development, implementation, and evaluation.
Prevention Steps at an Individual Level:
If you or your family members are feeling overwhelmed, it is ok 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 Intermountain COVID-19 Emotional Health Relief Line 1-833-442-2211 (10am-10pm, 7 days/week)
- The Suicide Prevention Lifeline (which routes to the UNI Crisis Line) 1-800-273-8255 (24/7)
Tips for staying mentally well:
- Care for yourself. Try to get some brief exercise. Maintain routine. Find a balance in how you consume news and internet content. Remember the activities that bring you joy and try to continue them in some way.
- 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.
- 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.
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