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You matter: Mental health and COVID-19

  • Author: Regan Brooks
    | Opinion
    , Karen Zeman
    | Opinion
    , Jason Lessard
    | Opinion
  • Updated: May 22
  • Published May 23

Craig Richards and his son Cameron, 6, watch from their window as Christine Hohf, wearing a unicorn costume, and Andi Correa, wearing a dinosaur costume, walk through South Addition on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in Anchorage. Hohf, who works as a scrub tech at a surgery center, said her hours were cut due to elective surgeries being put off because of the coronavirus pandemic, and she wanted to do something that would make people smile. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

As we wrap up Mental Health Awareness Month during this time of social distancing and uncertainty, we encourage you all to remember that you are valued. You, each and every one of you, are the reason we are collectively working to slow the spread of the coronavirus. You are the reason people, are looking for a cure, testing vaccines, sewing mask after mask, and keeping a safe distance when possible. You matter.

Whether or not your role in your community is officially an essential service, please remember that you do matter. Maybe you matter because you make beautiful art or because you take care of your pets or your kids or your siblings or your community. Maybe you matter because you remember birthdays or you love to laugh. Or maybe you matter because you are kind, insightful, funny, wonderfully weird, or all of the above.

Whatever the reason, you matter. And you knowing that you matter is something that matters to the rest of us. It really does.

Research tells us that when youth feel they matter in their communities, they are less likely to engage in risky behavior and their measures of mental and physical health improve. Let’s all learn from this and remember that our individual and collective sense that we matter is an important part of public health. Knowing we matter provides a foundation for self-care and mental health which benefits us not only as individuals but as a collective. When we know we matter, we take better care of ourselves and each other. Our mental health improves and our immune systems are strengthened.

Though public attention remains understandably focused on the physical logistics of preventing the spread of Coronavirus, we must also protect and support other aspects of public health. Making sure we all know we matter can help our communities and the individuals in them adapt, stay strong, and thrive.

Your world may have turned upside down in the past few months. Maybe school has gone online and you’re exhausted by Zoom marathons. Maybe you’ve lost your job, had to let employees go or encountered other uncertainties. Whatever your current changes and challenges, it’s not surprising if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and needing support.

Thankfully we also know from research and collective human wisdom that supporting each other can help people thrive and stay resilient in the face of challenges. So please remember to check in with those you trust and make sure they know that they matter too. Just making that connection may help you feel better.

Please remember that you matter, you are valued, and you are not alone. During this Mental Health Awareness Month and beyond, stay connected, stay safe, and find support for yourself and others when needed.

Ways you can let others know that they matter:

- Thank someone for being there for you in a tough situation.

- Thank someone for teaching you something you value.

- Tell someone about a trait you admire in them.

Mental Health and Wellness Resources:

- Alaska Careline: Crisis intervention 1-877-266-4357 (or text 4help to 839863).

- Child abuse and neglect reporting hotline: 1-800-478-4444 or email reportchildabuse@alaska.gov.

- Local domestic violence and sexual abuse hotlines can be found online or dial 211, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week for free and confidential referrals.

Regan Brooks is Executive Director for Story Works Alaska

Karen Zeman is Executive Director for Spirit of Youth

Jason Lessard is Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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