EDITORIAL: COVID-19’s toll on mental health

The numbers are staggering. COVID-19 has led to a serious toll on Americans’ mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over the last year:

Cases of depression are up 31%.

Cases of stress-related disorders are up 26%.

Illicit drug use is up 13%.

And, unfortunately, the CDC’s facts bear witness to the notion that stigma still plays a huge role in mental health. The CDC says:

Some 47% of adults believe seeking therapy is a sign of weakness.

Among adults, 32% believe they can handle their own problems without help.

And, 30% don’t believe their own mental-health issues are important or big enough to seek help.

The pages of this newspaper have been filled with stories about communities declaring themselves “Stigma Free.” Some towns, including Lyndhurst, have even posted signs about town noting this.

Yet here we are, again, one year into the COVID-19 pandemic — we know people are hurting mentally — and still, there are some who will not seek the attention they so direly need, despite what we know.

This pandemic has, indeed, taken its toll on so many of us. Whether it was the isolation caused by initial lockdown, kids who have gone a long time without seeing friends at school, the stress and pain of losing a loved one to this disease, the despair of losing a job, the inability to put food on the table and so much more, the reality is this crisis goes way beyond the physical. The mental toll, frankly, could very well turn out to be worse than the pandemic itself.

And so, we remind everyone out there reading this — help is available for those suffering mental illness or substance abuse. There are doctors, medications, all sorts of outlets to get better.

And you live in communities where you will not be judged for getting such help. In fact, you live in a place where you will be supported — no questions asked. 

And you will most certainly not be alone. 

The State of New Jersey has set up a telephone hotline for those in need of mental-health help. Call (866) 202-HELP between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. You may also text NJHOPE to 51684.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.