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Tucson Opinion: No doubt that 2020 has been a psychologically toxic year
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Tucson Opinion: No doubt that 2020 has been a psychologically toxic year

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

How vulnerable we are in the face of a single story!

Over the years, we have told a single story of mental health that usually ends with, “he/she has problems.” The diagnosis of a mental health condition has often been communicated in a negative context, thus it has led to the belief that people suffering from a mental health disorder are not “normal.”

Yes, over the years we made progress by being able to talk more openly about mental health, however the story did not change and, tragically, people continue to avoid seeking treatment due to stigma and discrimination.

This past year, 2020, brought many changes to how we live our lives: uncertainty, altered daily routines, financial pressures and social isolation. We experienced information overload, rumors, misinformation and astonishing events occurring in our great country, right before our eyes.

All of this created enormous change, and frankly, has proven to be too much as things just seemed to be out of control. For many it created feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, anger, sadness and loneliness.

There is no doubt that 2020 was the most psychologically toxic year that many of us will see in our lifetimes. Many have said that, “mental health is an emerging crisis,” due to the unprecedented isolation and uncertainty. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported 37.7% of adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder in October 2020, up from 11% in 2019.

My opinion is that mental health was already a crisis and it will get worse if we do not change the single story. We need to create a story that does not rob one of their dignity and does not emphasize how people living with mental illness are different from others. It is time to recognize that we are all susceptible to a mental health disorder and that seeking assistance, support and treatment is a means of finding resilience.

As a country, state or local community, it is time to make the investment in mental health. Not only do we need to adequately fund services, but we need to change the story.

Changing the story is a simple process that only requires us to change the messaging: Mental health can affect anyone and seeking treatment is critical to overcoming or coping with your condition. All of us can work together and change the mental health story!

Not making the investment in mental health will only add to the many problems our communities currently experience: homelessness, substance use, poverty and more.

I ask all of you to be advocates for the investment that is needed.

What can you do today to help? You can talk about mental health openly and when possible with your family and friends. Advocate for more mental health education in various settings such as schools and churches.

And, become knowledgeable of community resources; calling the United Way 211 phone line is a good start to get connected with local assistance 24/7. You should also know if your insurance plan has resources to support you.

With your help, we can change the tide and make the stigma of mental health a thing of the past.

Rose M. Lopez is president and CEO of Intermountain Centers.


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