The isolation and stress that continue with the pandemic weigh on everyone, but some people are coping better than others. Just ask them – then listen.

There has long been a stigma to a personal discussion about mental health. People don’t like to admit they’re having a hard time coping, staying focused and making decisions because they’re depressed. 

In line with National Mental Illness Awareness Week earlier in the month, the state of Massachusetts launched the #MoreToTheStory awareness campaign to encourage people to check in with friends and loved ones. Remember, the campaign says, there may be “more to the story” when it comes to a person’s mental health; asking how they’re doing and encouraging them to talk can go a long way providing support.

“You don’t have to be an expert to support a friend in a time of need,” the state website says. Learning how to recognize signs that something is wrong and starting a conversation can make a difference.

The $500,000 campaign aims to make people aware that physical health and mental health aren’t separate. Studies have shown how poor mental health can impact a person’s physical health, resulting in a lower life expectancy, higher risk of developing heart disease, development of substance abuse disorders and – especially with people between ages 10 and 34 – a higher risk of suicide.

With cold weather coming and many outdoor activities likely to be curtailed, stress and isolation could increase for some people in Greater Newburyport.

The #MoreToTheStory campaign goes beyond a catchy hashtag to offer online resources people can tap into – whether you are the one in need of help, or a friend or relative of someone experiencing mental health problems who needs a lifeline. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said it was in 2003, when she was commissioner of mental health, when the state last paid for a mental health awareness campaign. The timing of the new campaign is right, she said, because “mental health conditions will be exacerbated by COVID.”

“We’re going to see anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder and depression” during the pandemic, she told State House News Service.

This is the time to ask that friend, co-worker or family member how they’re doing as one step toward helping them get by.

To learn more about available resources, go to https://www.mass.gov/there-could-be-more-to-the-story

 

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