COLUMN: Mental health concerns affect everyone

Randy Gibson

Sunday is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilize efforts in support of mental health. Beginning in 1992, the day was started as an annual activity of the World Federation for Mental Health and is officially commemorated every year on Oct. 10.

This year’s theme is "Mental Health Care for All: Let’s Make It a Reality." The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on mental health around the world. Some groups – including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions – have been particularly affected, and services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders have been significantly disrupted.

During the World Health Assembly in May 2021, governments from around the world recognized the need to scale up quality mental health services at all levels, and some countries have found new ways of providing mental health care to their populations.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 8.1 percent of American adults ages 20 and older had depression in any given two-week period before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. After the pandemic began, the numbers increased significantly.

During the pandemic, Americans reported considerably more adverse mental health conditions. Younger adults, minorities, essential workers, and others reported disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance us and elevated suicidal thoughts.

People experience depression in different ways, and no one is immune. It may interfere with your daily work, resulting in lost time and lower productivity. It can also influence relationships and some chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Studies also show depression leads to suicide, which take more than 700,000 individuals each year, and is the fourth-leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds, according to the World Health Organization.

Human beings are social creatures, and even in times of a pandemic, we cannot simply shut down and lock ourselves in, frightened to emerge from our homes. Many have been criticized on both sides for their opinions on lockdowns and wearing of masks, and the topics have sadly become more of a political divide than one of utilizing basic health science and common sense. It is important to be careful and to take good care of yourself, and we can do that by eating healthy, exercise, and working to build strong immune systems.

Over the weekend, I listened to a conference, and a few things regarding hope and mental health were addressed. One positive thing we can do is to focus on serving others in need and limiting our time on social media, where there is a lot of anger, contention and language meant to divide rather than unite. Another thing we can do to better our mental health is to look to the future with hope and have more faith in our fellow citizens and those we are around. Show kindness to one another and look for the good, instead of trying to find something negative about them.

Most importantly, however, if you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, show understanding and compassion, and encourage them and their loved ones to seek help and work on solutions together. There are several options in our area to get the help you need. All you need to do is call and ask. Regardless of whether if it is you or a loved one who is struggling, mental health issues affect us all. Seek help, as we all deserve to live a life of happiness.

Randy Gibson is the CEO of RDG Communications and the former director of the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce and the Texas State Rifle Association.

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