Workers in the mental health field are gearing up for another sort of pandemic. With that in mind, Southeast Kansas Mental Health is rolling out its Stop the Spike campaign.

“We’ve heard a lot in the press and media about ‘flatten the curve’ with the (coronavirus) pandemic, but all of us in the mental health field are concerned about another pandemic. We are about to enter a phase where we see a spike in suicides,” said Doug Wright, clinical director of SEKMH. “We have the perfect storm. We have self-isolation, unemployment, an uncertain economy – and all of those things can lead to suicide. That’s not even taking into consideration every time we have a national emergency, anxiety levels go up as well as thoughts of suicide.”

Wright explained that for each point the unemployment rate goes up, suicide rates go up anywhere from .78 to one percent. Violent crime also goes up .78 to one percent during economic crisis.

“I think we will be facing a major crisis locally. We really want to get the word out that we are open. We have seen a surge in calls to our crisis center, but I am afraid there are many more people who are suffering, but they don’t reach out for help. While our doors may not be open, we are still able to visit through tele-video,” Wright said. “Reach out to your friends and family and make sure they are doing alright. If you have a feeling that they are not well, don’t be afraid to ask them if they are contemplating suicide. Suicide is kind of the hushed word, but it needs to be talked about. Do not be afraid to ask. And if it is you that is struggling, give us a call. We anticipate a great need for mental health in the coming weeks and months.”

Wright offered several tips for people suffering from isolation and said the biggest thing is for people to engage socially, whether through phone calls, tele-video or even email. 

“Also, you should try to get outside and exercise. Sunlight helps the mind in so many different ways. I would also say get back in a routine. Re-establish your old routines,” he said. 

“You may not be going to work, your kids may be home all the time and everything has been thrown off. But get in a routine of going to bed by a certain time, set aside times to do specific things. Make plans for your day so it gives you a purpose.”

SEK Mental Health can be reached at 431-7890.

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