In 1863, in spite of a bitterly divided nation, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the official Thanksgiving holiday because he recognized the many reasons Americans had to be grateful, even during the Civil War. Today, despite the challenges of 2020, it is important that we embrace that same Thanksgiving spirit and reflect on the many wonderful things in our lives.
First, I am extremely thankful for my wonderful family, friends, and amazing colleagues at Appriss Health. They’ve played an important role in helping me to navigate this year’s challenges and I value those relationships.
Most importantly, I am thankful for the millions of people who have banded together to help one another during the pandemic. Essential employees, frontline caregivers, first responders, our neighbors; the title does not matter. What does matter is that we’ve come together to help one another through a very difficult time.
Unfortunately, many challenges persist and the holiday season will not make things easier. It is important for us to continue supporting one another this winter.
Recent research from the American Psychological Association indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have negative mental health effects, and they are serious and long-lasting. The same research shows that 46% of parents report their stress level between 8 and 10, on a 10 point scale. That is nearly double the rate from the previous year.
Many mental health professionals agree that depression and anxiety tend to heighten during the holidays. Whether it is a clinical diagnosis like seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or the added stress of the holiday season, mental health issues will prove to be a growing problem in the coming months.
Sadly, too many of our friends and family will turn to controlled substances and alcohol to cope with these problems and feelings. It is imperative that we check on our friends and family, and do not leave them to struggle alone.
To make a difference in someone’s life this winter please listen, watch for warning signs, and offer help to those who are struggling. Helpful resources are available, but to someone grappling with a mental or behavioral health issue, accessing those resources may prove elusive. This is where we all can help.
Often the first step is to connect them with a primary care physician. That doctor will conduct validated screening assessments and may refer them to health care resources in the community that offer care by mental and behavioral health professionals.
Another option is to engage with your local 211 resources. Often underutilized, the 211 phone system covers all 50 states and is designed to connect people with local services including healthcare, help with domestic abuse, and behavioral health resources.
For those struggling with substance use disorder and looking to find a path to healing, a free, online 13-question addiction treatment needs assessment that launched this summer at treatmentconnection.com can help. The assessment, developed in partnership with the American Society for Addiction Medicine and Shatterproof, takes about 10 minutes to answer and treatmentconnection.com anonymously offers recommendations for the type of services needed as well as treatment options in the area. The site also offers a support line to help complete the assessment and find treatment. If the person has reached the point of crisis, you should connect with the state’s crisis line or the national suicide prevention line.
In the coming weeks, as you begin your holiday traditions, please stop and think about those around you. How are they handling the holiday season? If we just take the time to check on our friends and family, and offer a helping hand, we can help many find a path to appropriate care.