SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – New data from Monday has provided further insight into Utah’s mental health crisis.

According to Mental Health America, Utah ranks #47 for overall citizens experiencing some form of struggle with their health mentally.

Though Utah as a whole sits near the bottom of the list, officials say the pandemic has left a strain on the mental health system.

Some organizations have reported mental health crisis calls to have increased by 41% compared to this time last year, which has left longstanding impacts on first responders.

Courtesy of the CDC

“Of the 5,000 folks who responded, more than 2,500 of them are responding in ways that make us concerned about a future that involves depression, PTSD, substance abuse, and insomnia,” Andrew Smith of the Huntsman Mental Health Institute Occupational Trauma Clinic tells ABC4.

The CDC states that before the pandemic, 15% to 19% of adults reported having anxiety and depression. By June 2020, that number increased to 31%, 11% of which reported seriously considering suicide.

According to Steven M. Lucero, a licensed psychologist at the University of Utah Counseling Center, this new reality has forced many to subconsciously push themselves away from getting the help they need.

Lucero says these things all contributed to increased emotional and social dysfunction for many around our state.

“Unfortunately, the most complicated problems like an unprecedented global pandemic are the types of problems that are least likely to have clear answers and easy solutions,” he adds. “In general, we struggle with uncertainty.”

Free COVID-10 Helpline Call/Text 385-386-2289
Courtesy of the CDC

Lucero also points out how the pandemic exposed how little control we have over so many different areas of our lives. 

“When approaching a problem that is outside of our locus of control, it can be easy to give up. When we begin to question, ‘What difference can I make as an individual?’ it can be challenging to engage in the very public health measures that require every individual to follow to get this pandemic under control,” he adds.

According to Mental Health America, when it comes to adults with mental health, Utah ranks #51 while Utah’s youth sit higher on the list, now coming in at #32.

So as a community, what steps can be taken to help reduce this growing struggle? The CDC shares tips and resources on the matter.

Emotional Health Hotline Image 833.422.2211
Courtesy of IMHC

Advice for adults experiencing mental health struggles:

  • Seek information from legitimate sources and limit the time you spend on news and social media
  • Take care of yourself first, then you can help others
  • Connect with others daily via phone, text, and video chat
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise or physical activity every day
  • Do things to help you relax: deep breaths, stretching, meditation, a short walk, reading, or listening to music
  • Spend time with your household family in positive ways
  • Get some alone time
  • When it feels like you have too much to do, take small breaks during the day
  • Ask for support, including professional support if needed. Asking for help is a sign of strength; none of us can do this alone.

Recommendations for parents with youth experiencing mental health struggles:

  • Listen and talk about worries your child expresses, especially during play
  • Answer questions honestly and clearly
  • Limit news they see or read
  • Encourage positive coping activities like:
    • Deep breathing
    • Physical activity 
    • Writing in a journal 
  • Give them choices
  • Have your child write or draw a hero story where they overcome a challenge
  • Keep a routine
  • Schedule meaningful family time
  • Be a calming example