The numbers are alarming and scary. Sixty percent of Americans admit to having increased anxiety (or worse) right now. I have been doing up to 12 Zoom calls a week, and almost everyone I talk to admits to feeling heightened anxiety, being spacey or more tired than usual. They might feel lonely, worried about money, or their loved ones getting sick.
The number of calls to various crisis hotlines across the country since COVID-19 started has skyrocketed, with many hotlines seeing increases of well over 100%. The Crisis Hotline in Colorado (1-844-493-8255 or text 38255) has seen an increase of 60% in calls. These are just the people who are willing to pick up the phone and admit they are struggling. It leaves out all of the people who are too afraid to let anyone know. There is still stigma around admitting anything that might even look like weakness in mental health. We still lack understanding of what a person who is struggling emotionally and mentally experiences, we still hold on to a false idea that strong people don’t have these feelings, and we still think that there is something wrong with people who do.
We would never react to someone who got pneumonia like we do to someone who admits mental problems. But mental illness is the cancer of our time. Some of you remember when we talked about cancer in whispers, calling it “The Big C.” We aren’t even there yet, with mental illness. Many, if not most people, still feel that mental illness is the person’s fault, and if they were just stronger, they would get over it.
This means that many people who need help aren’t calling the hotlines or trying to find help. They are even more alone than they normally would be, because they are staying at home and possibly have been laid off. We don’t have numbers for suicides in the pandemic yet, but we know that economic downturns lead to an increase in suicides. History suggests that pulling together in national emergencies is protective against suicide, but are we pulling together right now?
There is hope. For every hundred people trained in suicide prevention, 75 lives are saved. That’s just people who were actively thinking of or planning suicide who did not complete it. We don’t even know the number of people who were struggling in other ways but weren’t yet that desperate who have been helped.
These trainings are now available online. They take about 90 minutes of your time, are free, and give you the skills to notice when someone might need help, what to say, and what to do. You aren’t trained to do anything except notice, speak up, and refer them on to someone else with more training.
Wide Spaces Community Initiative is offering two of these kinds of free trainings. One, QPR (Question, Persuade Refer), is online with a trainer, and another, LivingWorks Start, is online at home. To register or for more information, go to our Facebook page for the links to enroll for QPR, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com with questions, for more information, or to enroll.
People in Lyons who have taken these classes have already saved lives and helped adults and teens who were having a hard time. People who take these classes say they feel less scared and more empowered, and know they can help. Don’t you want to help too?
Follow Janaki Jane on Facebook at Broken and Free with Janaki Jane. Jane has a degree in psychology and been working in the counseling, training, health, and healing fields for over 30 years. She is the founder and Program Director of the Wide Spaces Community Initiative, “Creating a Community of Belonging and Personal Safety for Everyone,” a program through the Lyons Regional Library. Janaki teaches multiple classes on mental health and creates community-building events.