Local officials weigh in on mental health impact during pandemic

MEDFORD, Ore. — Jackson County Mental Health calling it worrying.

“It’s not that the level of level of mental health concerns have decreased. I think they’ve increased,” said Rick Rawlins, crisis services manager at Jackson Co. Mental Health.

The department says the number of calls to its 24-hour mental health crisis line have decreased since the start of the pandemic.

However, Rawlins says the numbers don’t reflect the actual need for services.

“They’re not at schools. They’re not at work. They’re not talking to other people that may have encouraged them to call. Just because things are different now, they’re a lot more isolated,” said Rawlins.

Of the calls it is receiving, Rawlins says there are higher levels of stress, anxiety, and need for immediate resources.

“Certainly we have the pandemic that people’s lives changed quickly. We had the fires that impacted our community that added additional stress. We had political unrest,” said Rawlins.

That increased anxiety and widespread demand for resources, also prompting non-profit ‘Lines for Life’ to launch new support lines.

“To help people work through the totally normal stresses, anxiety, and even depression that come from this kind of year we’ve had,” said Dwight Holton, CEO of ‘Lines for Life.”

Holton says it’s seen more people reaching out this year for connectivity.

Its ‘senior loneliness line,’ growing from hundreds to thousands of calls a month.

The non-profit also created a ‘youth line,’ ‘drug and alcohol abuse helpline,’ and the ‘safe and strong line.’

“[The safe and strong line is] serving people who have been stressed or impacting by the wildfires, people who are worried about Covid or jobless,” said Holton.

Sometimes, both say all it just takes a simple phone call to change someone’s life.

“They don’t have to suffer in silence and in isolation,” said Rawlins.

“You can build hope in someone’s life. It’s not that hard. And it’s something we can all take part in,” said Holton.

You can call the crisis line at 541-774-8201 or if you’re outside Jackson County and in a crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or the National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

To get help now, you can also contact ‘Lines for Life’ at 800-273-8255.

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