All those touched by tragedy and disappointment since March lockdowns over the COVID-19 pandemic agree: 2020 has been a rough year.
Mental health experts in the state agree as well, and urge residents to watch for signs of mental distress in themselves and loved ones, and take advantage of counseling and treatment services available.
“Washingtonians have been going through some rough times that put stress on us all. COVID has been with us for more than six months; we know that that is an impact on our mental health, and we know that it’s also normal to not feel OK during a pandemic,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday during a news conference with mental health experts. “I know a lot of people are struggling.”
Inslee and counselors from throughout the state discussed signs to watch for and resources to lean on, including the Washington Listens service the state launched in July.
Washington Listens offers a hotline at 1-833-681-0211 that is available 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sunday, as well as a website at walistens.org where resources and self-help tips can be found.
“If you’re experiencing stress ... you can reach Washington Listens,” Inslee said. “If you feel you need help, please call.”
Yoon Joo Han, a behavioral health services director in King County, said with wildfires, oppressing smoke and changing seasons also upon residents, the need for those types of services is expected to increase.
The state Department of Health estimates more than three million residents could experience clinically significant mental health challenges before the end of the year.
“The ongoing pandemic, the historic protests for change, the wildfires, the bad air quality, the loss of our loved ones; people are fighting for their lives, their livelihoods and their 九游会官网网页版_j9.com真homes — it’s a lot to take in,” Inslee said.
Dr. Kira Mauseth, co-lead of the state’s behavioral health strike team, said natural responses to disaster-related stress include becoming forgetful and distracted or having trouble tracking details. It’s normal to be on edge due to fear and uncertainty while changes outside our control play out around us.
“Not a single brain is immune to that,” Mauseth said.
Because of the need to support community members coping with the emotional fallout from COVID-19, local behavioral health providers have transitioned this year to the use of telemedicine.