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In our opinion: Don’t let a pandemic turn into a mental health crisis

Utah’s new ‘Live On’ campaign was in the works well before the novel coronavirus spread, but it couldn’t have launched at a better time.

Utah’s new “Live On” campaign was in the works well before the novel coronavirus spread, but it couldn’t have launched at a better time.
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Here’s a sobering statistic: Utah has lost eight times as many lives to suicide in the past 12 months than to COVID-19.

That number, along with the effects of isolation, social distancing and community and personal anxiety over the global pandemic only emphasize the need to further suicide prevention and mental health awareness efforts.

Utah’s new “Live On” campaign was in the works well before the novel coronavirus spread, but it couldn’t have launched at a better time. With an aim to promote education, resources and change norms surrounding mental health, Live On is a much needed step in trying to combat the devastating toll suicide has taken.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Utahns ages 10-24, and a 2019 study estimated that a third of Utah overdoses were actually misreported suicides.

Three months into a global health crisis, the world may also be on the verge of a mental health crisis. It’s too early to know what the impact will be, but experts warn it could take another year for indicators like suicide rates to really tell the story of the present psychological trauma.

In combination with May’s designation as Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s fitting to emphasize the importance of sufficient mental health resources, education and the power of community.

We have previously noted that any effort that leads to even a single life saved is an effort worth pursuing. For the same reason so many have taken extra time to thoroughly wash their hands, sanitize their homes and wear masks, it will take effort on all fronts to ensure an already strained mental health system doesn’t become overwhelmed in the coming months.

Though it may seem that one’s personal worries or anxieties falter in comparison to the world’s, looking out for one’s own mental health is a part of looking out for loved ones and communities. The Centers For Disease Control has promoted the need to “be kind to your mind,” especially during such turbulent times.

Check in with yourself. Address stressors, and help contribute to a healthier community. In turn, being open about struggles can help reduce lingering stigmas associated with mental health.

Likewise, knowing how to recognize signs of distress, anxiety or depression in others is essential in cultivating a society that takes mental and physical health in equal seriousness.

Utah has put a spotlight on shifting the conversations surrounding mental health in the past year. Once considered taboo, the state has dedicated resources to lessening suicide’s grasp on its residents. Leaders from both parties have accentuated the need for more mental health legislation, displaying that health should never be a bipartisan issue.

This new effort from the state is noteworthy, and we hope it spurs further discussion and action. But Live On alone is not enough. Each individual has the power to make a difference in their immediate social circles.

The phrase “unprecedented times” has been wrung dry in recent weeks. Nevertheless, it’s an adequate descriptor. This is a time that demands strong communities. The world has lost a lot in the past few months. To lose more would be devastating.

This Mental Health Awareness Month, take a moment to evaluate your health. Like washing hands or wearing masks, avoiding a mental health crisis is dependent on showing compassion and concern for everyone around you.