Every May is designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, but like everything else, this year is far different. Events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have, justifiably, taken center stage in a world that is no longer too sure where to focus its attention next.
If nothing else, however, the pandemic has shined a light on just how important it is to maintain a focus on mental health care. Stories about people dealing with heightened anxiety and loneliness as a result of quarantine have also been widespread.
Further, an MMHPI report released in April demonstrated how diseases of despair, such as depression, substance use and addiction, and suicide all increase significantly during times of economic strife. The effects of this pandemic will be felt long after the virus is brought to bear. The good news is that this report has gained both national and statewide attention, so we hope it adds clarity to the mission ahead.
If there is anything positive to this situation, Texas leaders have taken significant steps forward in improving the state’s mental health care, and as a result, we are better situated to deal with the emotional impact of the pandemic and its related economic slowdown than we would have been just a few short years ago.
But make no mistake, we are in this for the long haul.
This Mental Health Awareness Month we must rededicate ourselves to recognizing and addressing the overwhelming need to maintain and build upon the momentum we’ve created in mental health care, and to apply the lessons we’ve learned in helping people overcome the challenges unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic and those that lie ahead.
Over the next several weeks, we will explore mental health from a variety of angles: children and family issues; COVID front-line workers and first responders; and veterans’ issues. We hope this will help us underscore how important mental health care is.
This Mental Health Awareness Month represents both a milestone marking how far we’ve come, and a somber reminder of how far we have yet to go.