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Post-Pandemic Hope for Mental Health – by Sara Janzen, MSW, LICSW [4 min read]

Have you been feeling down in the dumps? Have you been unable to gain back your usual exuberance and energy? You are not alone. Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. In February 2021 37.2% of adults in Minnesota reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. In Minnesota last year 739 lives were lost to suicide. If you are struggling, you are not alone.

Awareness is the First Step

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated feelings of isolation, stress, fear, and loneliness for just about everyone. No one is immune to the emotional struggles the past two years have caused. Significant life changes, grief and loss, limitations to resources, etc. have negatively affected so many people. If you have been struggling with life stressors lately you are not alone. Now more than ever we want to be more aware of the challenges mental illness brings to individuals and our communities. Through raising awareness, we hope to increase understanding and compassion towards those struggling with mental illness. With emotional stress having been more prevalent during the pandemic maybe we can decrease stigma and increase understanding towards those fighting these battles.

How to Recognize if Someone Has a Mental Health Problem

No two people are the same, and may show symptoms of mental health issues in different ways. Here are some signs that may indicate deeper struggles:
  • Not acting like their usual selves; (i.e. changes in appetite, how the person dresses, hygiene, sleep patterns)
  • Mood changes such as increased irritability or impulsiveness
  • Excessive worry
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Substance abuse
  • Change in social media activity; there may be an increase in liking and posting negative posts and comments on social media platforms

What We Can Do

We can all play a part in the prevention and treatment of mental illness. Recognizing the signs of mental illness early is a powerful first step. We can also:

  • Offer help to those we see that might be having trouble.
  • Be respectful and refrain from using harmful labels.
  • Be patient and understanding.
  • Ask questions, be a good listener, and be responsive.
  • Continue inviting the individual to meetings and other social events, and keep including them.
  • Remind the person there are many people to support them, including qualified therapists.
  • Suggest a physical exam and/or a referral to a therapist.

We have all been affected by this pandemic, but we can work to support each other in recovery. Mental illness takes on many forms. Regardless of how people’s symptoms present, it is always easier to manage with a touch of kindness from the world.

Crisis Text Line: Text MN to 741741
Suicide Crisis Hotline: 1-800-635-8008
Statistics taken from NAMI-MN

Written by: Sarah Janzen, MSW, LICSW. Sarah is a licensed clinical social worker at Stellis Health. She provides individual therapy to adolescents and adults via telehealth. Sarah enjoys spending time on the lake with her family and friends, as well as traveling, gardening, staying active, and being outdoors.
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