Health experts to host virtual mental health Q&A

Community Health Plan of Washington Hosts Panel Supporting Mental Health During COVID-19
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Suicide is the #2 leading cause of death in the United States among young people 10-34 and one of the leading causes of death overall, according to NAMI. Nine out of 10 people who die by suicide first experience symptoms of a mental illness, and nearly half are diagnosed with a mental health condition. Suicide rates have increased by more than 30% since 2001.

SEATTLE, WashWashington State Department of Health’s November 2020 behavioral health report found 1.8 million Washington adults are experiencing symptoms of anxiety and almost 1.2 million adults reported experiencing symptoms of depression on most days.

These increased stressors are colliding with seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that is related to changes in the seasons.

Additionally, recent COVID-19 safety guidance is impacting many Washingtonians’ holiday plans, especially those over the age of 65, who may be most vulnerable. This means that many people may not be able to be with family and friends and may experience increased isolation this holiday season.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put additional strain on factors that influence our mental health, like the season change, holidays, employment, and relationships,” said Blake Edwards, Behavioral Health Director at Columbia Valley Community Health (CVCH).

“Managing our emotional well-being is an important part of being healthy overall,” said Dr. Paul Sherman, Chief Medical Officer at Community Health Plan of Washington. “By giving people everywhere the opportunity to ask experts their most pressing questions, we hope we can help them receive the advice they need to support their health during these uncertain and hard times. Additionally, we hope that people who may not typically seek advice about stress or anxiety will feel more comfortable in this setting where they can remain anonymous.”

These are the main takeaways from Tuesday virtual mental health Q&A:

If you are unsure where to go for mental health counseling and don’t have a primary care provider or health insurance, there are other resources across the state. Washington’s 27 community health centers and specialized behavioral health centers like Consejo Counseling and Referral Service can connect you with the right person. If you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health crisis, call either the Washington Recovery Help Line at +1 (866) 789-1511 or Washington Listens at +1 (833) 681-0211.

Remember to take care of yourself. Nurture existing relationships with routine video calls with your loved ones so you have a conversation to look forward to. You can also integrate exercise and new hobbies into your routine to promote a healthy mindset. If a loved-one is experiencing isolation, take time to connect with your relative over the phone or a video call. You can even ask your own family and friends to engage with your loved-one as well to expand their social circle.

If you have symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, try getting a source of light by going outside 30 to 60 minutes a day (even when cloudy) or purchasing a lightbox. However, if you are feeling restless, connect with a healthcare professional to discuss next steps together.

If you are worried about your child’s emotional well-being, look out for behavior change like a shorter attention span or growing irritability and connect with a mental health provider. Since children under the age of 11 have a difficult time expressing emotions verbally, you can help younger children process their feelings by roleplaying a conversation with stuffed animals.