Mental Health Awareness Month; A matter of life and death, compounded by COVID-19

May 5th, 2021

-By DLC CEO Scott Burgess

The demand for mental health services has never been higher in Florida, as more people than ever are living with mental health trauma.

Since the pandemic began, 22 of Florida’s 67 counties have seen an increase in suicides. For Floridians, suicide is unfortunately not a new topic. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, prior to the pandemic, one person died by suicide every three hours in Florida on average. Death by suicide was the eighth leading cause of death in the state, the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, and second leading cause of death for people ages 25 to 34.

It has been over a year since we all entered COVID-19 quarantine and it is no surprise that the pandemic has significantly impacted Floridians’ mental health.

At David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC), we have seen dramatic increases in the acute behavioral health needs of adults and children during the last year. There has been a 26% in the number of calls received and worked by DLC’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and there has been a 19% increase in emergency intake assessments.

The pandemic has been exponentially harder for our youth. Children and adolescents in the community are reporting higher incidents of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and more.

The switch to online education and the loss of social interaction and school activities has taken a toll academically, emotionally, and socially. Classrooms look different and the standard hallmarks — ballgames, dances, teams, clubs — are mostly gone. This is combined with other major stresses of the pandemic that children and teenagers may have experienced, such as a parent losing a job or a grandparent passing away.

It all adds up to a crisis — for our children, their families and our community overall. For DLC, over the past year, it has resulted in the number of children admitted to our crisis unit increasing by 18%, and the average daily census increasing 33%.

And sadly, the number of suicides in Collier County involving people up to the age of 24 increased from two to seven between 2019 and 2020, according to preliminary Department of Health data.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. A critical part of this observance is ensuring that children and adults in our community know they are not alone, they matter, things will get better, and there is help available to them.

We are encouraging those struggling with these widespread issues to seek support through DLC’s Virtual Care Center so they can effectively cope and thrive again, while also ensuring that all who reach out for care have immediate access to the help they need.

Throughout the month of May, DLC is hosting a variety of convenient, virtual educational opportunities to create awareness about the mental health crisis and impact of COVID-19, common concerns in adults and youth, warning signs for early identification, crisis resources and treatment options, as well prevention and wellness tips.

Together, we can stand up for the mental health of those around us by showing compassion, understanding, and support. Our goal this Mental Health Awareness Month is to arm the community with the knowledge of how to talk openly about our mental health, fight the stigma, offer hope, and let our loved ones know that none of us are alone. We can all be part of the solution and make Collier County healthier, happier, stronger, and safer.

To learn more about how you can take action for yourself or others in our community, call DLC 24/7 at 239-455-8500.

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