Reconnecting: A Best Starts Mental Health Blog Series
As we enter the holiday season and move into a new year, we become more acutely aware of the impact that COVID has had on all our lives, however big or small.
This is the first blog in a three-part series that shines light on the importance of mental and emotional health during this challenging period. We provide tools and resources to support you wherever you are and feature organizations who have been providing critical programs and services for the community – long before the pandemic began.
Today, we chat with Meg Cary, a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at King County, who reconnects us to what’s important during this moment. She provides evidence-based tips to support your emotional well being and resources for individuals from all walks of life.
Stay tuned for future posts!
Everyone we know and love has been affected by the pandemic, however minute or life altering.
While adapting to the constant twists and turns over the past 9 months, we’ve had to shift how we operate as individuals and as a collective society. It’s vital to acknowledge the fundamental changes that have taken place since the pandemic began and recognize the exigency for mental health services and programs during this challenging period.
“There’s no health without mental health,” says Meg Cary, a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at King County. “Our physical wellbeing, our behaviors, our priorities, our motivations, and our relationships are all rooted in our emotional health. Conversely, as we destress, we’re also enhancing our resilience to COVID-19 by taking care of our bodies and our energy to continuously keep up with infection mitigation efforts.”
If you feel like the emotional reserves that have carried you through to this point have begun to wane, you are not alone. , mental health on an individual and collective level “bottoms out” around six to nine months after the initial disaster. During this period of disaster recovery, known as the disillusionment phase, we experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and drug overdose. In King County, this challenging stretch intensifies as it coincides with seasonal changes, longer nights, and an unprecedented holiday season that will be quieter, yet creatively celebrated in different ways. Among those who experience the most disproportionate shifts in mental health are communities of color, along with low-income community members.
In October, four young people under 18 years old died by suicide and unintentional overdose in King County. On November 2nd, Public Health Seattle and King County issued a health advisory warning health care and social service providers of the increased risk among young people across King County.
This is a challenging moment for everyone. By beginning to care for ourselves and our loved ones, we have the opportunity to promote well-being and safety for people of all ages across King County. “Distress and despair are fed by isolation and silence,” Meg says. “The more we can openly talk about these thoughts, the better chance we have at dissuading thoughts of suicide and increasing connection and hope. Connection, to who and what is important to us, is the antidote for suicidality.”
We recognize that everyone holds a slightly different headspace. What works for some may not be realistic for others. Yet, we share various evidence-based tips that can serve as a starting point to meet you today, wherever you are.
Reaching out for help can be incredibly difficult; it may even feel very uncomfortable or unnatural. You are not alone if you’ve previously opened up to a loved one or expressed your desire to seek professional help, and left the conversation feeling unheard or judged. In most communities and homes, mental health and mental illness are still deeply stigmatized and misunderstood. For historically underserved individuals, it can also be challenging to access and connect with culturally-relevant resources, services, and professionals who understand their lived experiences. We must become aware of the language we utilize in discussions centered around emotional wellbeing ― words frame our thinking, especially in the quiet conversations we have with ourselves. The process of normalizing mental health actively acknowledges that we all – to some degree and at some point – have and will repeatedly face challenging moments in our lives when we need support. When we recognize this collective truth, we begin to establish safe support systems that validate our experiences, guide us towards assistance, and help us fully participate in our lives and communities.
So, wherever you are in this moment, how do you prepare yourself – our own spirit and community – for whatever lies ahead?
As a starting step, we hope you view and access Community Wellbeing’s website, which provides extensive tools and resources to support your emotional and mental health.
Whether you or someone you know may need to talk to someone, are looking for a counselor, or want to help change the conversation around mental health, Community Wellbeing’s portal provides support for individuals from all walks of life.
The Community Well-Being group, an initiative led by Best Starts for Kids, seeks to promote emotional health in our communities and in the County’s COVID19 response and center BIPOC individuals and communities who are most impacted by the intersection of racism and the pandemic. On the Community Well-Being website, you’ll find ways to connect with people who want to help including how to…
- Talk to someone right now
- Get help finding a counselor
- Change the conversation on mental health
- Connect to the Community Health Access Program (CHAP) for more community resources