Mental health and well-being is critical to our communities, our workplaces, our families and our state.
As health care leaders advised us to change many aspects of our daily life to avoid spreading COVID-19, they also cautioned us to pay attention to the state of our mental health.
The limits on our work, play, education, worship, travel and socializing increased the likelihood that some of us would experience feelings of loneliness, isolation and even depression.
Our friends at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Psychiatric Institute say that in one survey of Americans, 65 percent reported that COVID-19 was causing significant stress in their lives and complicating much of what they do. About 45 percent of people of all ages reported significant loneliness.
During the pandemic, as always when Arkansas faces difficulties, Arkansans have been concerned for the well-being of their neighbors and quick to provide aid and comfort. In North Little Rock, as one newspaper reported, members of a school district task force were making special preparations for school to resume in the fall. They acknowledged that closing the schools was traumatic for students and that many had left school in tears in March.
They also knew that the months of uncertainty and isolation may have created mental stress and that returning to the school building could intensify anxiety and fear. So school leaders were preparing to react quickly to unexpected events this school year.
In south Arkansas, three brothers have created Integrity Telehealth to direct students and teachers to appropriate counseling and mental health services.
UAMS has created AR-Connect to provide assistance for Arkansans — with no out-of-pocket expense — who are experiencing stress or mental health issues related to the pandemic.
COVID-19 has drifted across the nation like a toxic fog, and as summer turns to autumn, we still aren’t certain when it will end. It is natural to experience uncertainty about jobs and schools.
Those who are anxious or who are suffering depression during these difficult days don’t need to walk through this alone. AY’s Mental Health Guide is a good resource for information about state agencies and private organizations that are committed to helping. I know firsthand that Arkansans are quick to help their neighbors in need. All you need to do is ask.