A recent survey published by the Centers for Disease Control found anxiety and depression are at an all-time high among Iowans. Nearly 40% of Iowans reported feelings of despair and worry during the pandemic.
“Last spring a dense fog of the unknown rolled across Iowa overwhelming our work routines, disconnecting us from trusted friends, co-workers and family,” says Liz Cox, CEO of the Polk County Mental Health Region. “We’ve all experienced changes at home, social isolation, loss of a routine, lack of sleep and, for some, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one.”
Cox is urging Iowans to address their stress and seek help.
“Rather than turning to drugs or alcohol, negative self talk or overwhelming ourselves with work, we have better mental health outcomes when we take time to decompress,” Cox says, “when we talk to a counselor, a friend, a faith leader; we exercise or we ask for help when we need it.”
Many school districts have hired mental health counselors or reserved spaces for staff and students to talk with someone via a “telehealth” connection, according to Cox. A 2019 report found the teenage suicide rate in Iowa increased 30 percent in the previous three years.
“Please say something. Listen non-judgmentally. Give reassurance and information,” Cox says, “and encourage appropriate professional help.”
State officials say pharmacy records appear to indicate many Iowans are seeking help, as there’s been a 20% increase this year in prescriptions for medications that address anxiety and depression.