COVID-19 Brings Mental Health Conversation to Forefront

COVID-19 Brings Mental Health Conversation to Forefront

This article is part of our series “COVID-19: 1 Year Later,” exploring the ways COVID-19 has affected and changed daily life over the last year. For two weeks, we surveyed our readers on how COVID-19 has affected them. Read our survey results here. In conjunction with Mental Health Awareness Month, we are writing about how the pandemic has affected mental health and what our local leaders are doing to help.

In the last year, Rolling Hills Hospital, a mental health facility located in Franklin, Tennessee, experienced a 25% increase in patient care that can be directly related to the pandemic, according to their CEO, James Miller. But they are not the only organization seeing increased numbers of patients needing help with mental health issues. So are emergency rooms. And according to a recent Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Vanderbilt University and the Williamson County Health Department, access to mental health treatment and information is a weakness in Williamson County. One the City of Franklin began addressing in 2020 through the website findhopefranklin.com.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Franklin Tomorrow recently hosted a
discussion on mental health awareness and issues in the community as one of their Frank Talks.

Franklin Mayor Ken Moore; Cathy Montgomery, Williamson County Health Director; and Miller all spoke of how COVID-19 has brought mental health to the forefront, and how the stigma of mental health issues is being addressed in the City of Franklin, and the county.

The Carter Center, begun by former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1982, states on its website that, “Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States and around the world. Around one in five American adults experience some form of mental illness.” Long a mental health advocate, Rosalynn Carter began working in the 1980s to help destigmatize discussion and treatment of mental illness and often related substance abuse issues.

During the worst of the pandemic, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reached out to the country through public service announcements hoping to provide those struggling with loneliness and anxiety the resources they needed. According to the COVID-19 One Year Later Survey conducted by the Williamson Source, almost 85% of respondents suffered from some form of mental strife caused by the pandemic.

covid survey mental health responsesLocally, the Find Hope Franklin website, which launched during the pandemic, provides those in need of help addressing mental health and addiction issues one location to go to find the information and care they need. Begun as a part of the Franklin Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force that formed in late 2019, the initiative has also launched a series of training sessions on QPR – Question, Persuade, Respond.

“QPR is like CPR in that it can save lives,” explained Mayor Moore,” but instead of learning how to physically push on the sternum to prevent a heart attack, you use your brain and ask questions to direct people to a better place.” The training is directed mostly at preventing suicide.

If you feel that someone you know is having a hard time, QPR can help reach them. The first step is to ask them how they are doing, then persuade them to get help, and finally refer them to help resources.

The National Action Alliance, which is the nation’s number one public-private partnership formed to prevent suicide, also has five steps that anyone can follow to help a friend through hard times.

First, like QPR, ask them how they are feeling. Second, help them find the support and help they need. Third, be there for them as they struggle through treatment. Four, help them connect with others. And, most of all, follow up.

Right now, according to research presented by the Williamson County Health Department, white males between the ages of 50 and 69 are the most likely to attempt suicide and to follow through, although more females will attempt without follow through.

“Everyone can be part of the solution,” said Miller. Miller went on to tell the story of a man in New York who spent two and a half hours on a bridge waiting for anyone to just stop and ask him if he was okay. No one did, so he jumped. Luckily, he survived, and now he shares his story.

To watch a rebroadcast of the Frank Talk on Mental Health, click here.

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