(Intermountain Healthcare) The potential mental health effects of traumatic events can be profound. The pandemic, that started in Utah two years ago now, 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.

Now, we all watch as events unfold in the war happening in Ukraine and fear of escalating war. It has been a lot for everyone to take when you add in, economic downturns, racial injustices, and political unrest since 2020. That is just to name a few, and what we all encountered was mental well-being moments that challenged us. 

Research has studied the effect of large-scale traumas and disasters on communities – such as Hurricane Katrina which has long-lasting behavioral health effects that withstood years.

The Utah Department of Health released the Social and Behavioral Health during the COVID-19 report. Some of the key findings and takeaways that the Health Department reported was:

  • Reports of suicide ideation and attempt remained stable throughout the pre-COVID-19 period and during the COVID-19 interventions period.         
  • The number of suicide deaths did not increase in the first 39 weeks of 2020; the number of suicide deaths in Utah is consistent with the previous three years.
  • The number of drug overdoses reported to emergency departments remained stable through the first 50 weeks of 2020.
  • The typical response to multiple stressors and crises is resilience and recovery; most people live through and effectively manage crises, serious mental illness, and extremely difficult circumstances.  
  • Receiving care promptly is critical for people experiencing increased emotional, mental, or substance use related concerns.

While the report showed consistency so far in the behavioral health of Utahns, it perhaps is too early to tell what the effects are from the traumatic events. 

The good side is that through the strife’s of the past two years, we have also been given the opportunity to practice and develop our resilience.  Some people think of resilience as a trait one is born with (hardiness) or an outcome (presence of post-traumatic stress or growth). 

Resilience is neither lucky or passive and can be strengthened with practice.  Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.  When we get far enough past an adversity to look back with perspective, we can consider its effects on our lives and identities, reflect on the skills we developed, the actions we took, the lessons we learned, and the reasons we kept going. 

We all need to be deliberate about navigating the middle of the resilience process, the part between getting through and looking back.  We will do this by harnessing resources that work for us based on our individual and community needs. 

For parents, there is help for children with Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital behavioral health resources for children and families:

  • Emotional wellbeing conversation starters for parents of young teens.
  • Questions about connecting to services: 801-313-7711          
  • More information: primarychildrens.org.

Talk to your family and friends about stressors and check in on them as well. Please reach out to your family doctor, therapist if you need mental health resources. If you or someone you know needs immediate support, contact the Utah Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, 24/7). Intermountain Healthcare also has a Behavioral Health Relief Hotline if you just need someone to talk to or you need resources (1-833-442-2211, 10 am-10 pm, 7 days/week).

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