EDITORIAL: Not alone

Experts advise seeking help with pandemic-related stress

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott raised attention Wednesday when he announced that his brother Jace, who died in April, had committed suicide. Prescott also admitted that he has battled bouts of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant social restrictions. Even former first lady Michelle Obama, revealed in a recent podcast that she has been battling low-grade depression during the pandemic.

Health experts have generally praised these public admissions; they let other people who are fighting stress know that they are not alone, that even people who enjoy the trappings of success, wealth and fame deal with the same challenges.

And they’re not alone: data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that one-third of all Americans are dealing with stress or anxiety.

It’s to be expected. As noted on the website of the American Medical Association, many people are dealing with stressors that can include job loss and financial insecurity, or the fear of getting sick or losing income, coupled with social distancing mandates that make it harder to find comfort and support from friends or family.

AMA past President Patrice Harris indicated that it’s important for public people to share their struggles, as it helps address the stigma that has long been attached to mental health issues.

Another obstacle for many was best shown in recent statements by sports commentator Skip Bayless, who criticized Prescott for admitting his struggles.

Bayless suggested that leaders appear weak if they share their problems with the people they lead.

Prescott, however, said that teammates as well as family members have helped him get through his struggles.

Mental health experts agree that people dealing with depression or anxiety should not keep it to themselves.

The feeling of being alone, in fact, can make the situation worse.

Many people do keep it in, however, perhaps because they fear appearing weak or losing respect. Health experts recommend that everyone keep an eye on loved ones and note any possible signs of stress. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those signs can include talk about worries and fears; changes in eating or sleeping habits; trouble sleeping or concentrating; worsening of any chronic health problems; threats or physical abuse of themselves or others; or increased use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs.

Most importantly, people should remember that help is available.

Anyone who is struggling with stress or believes someone else is at risk can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, (800) 273-TALK (8255) in English or (888) 628-9454 in Spanish, or call 211 for referral to local counselors and health care experts.

COVID-19 restrictions have introduced new stresses into our lives while limiting our ability to find respite with other people.

However, no one has to deal with emotional or mental stress alone.

Resources are available that can help us manage our troubles and help keep them from tragic outcomes.