The PAL Kaua‘i (Permanently Affordable Living) mission is to provide homes and sustainable living solutions, within reach, restoring hope for the people of Kaua‘i.
“Everyone’s mental health Is suffering! If you’re thinking, “Oh, I just need to suck it up,” STOP. What you’re feeling is real.” That’s the title of a piece I just read by Eric Ravenscraft of “Wired.”
If you are suspecting that he may be describing you, then you need to cop to it, NOW.
In this column we always try to focus on hope and solutions. Our purpose is not to suggest that we are all going crazy! But we choose to do our best to understand exactly what’s going on, and how we can get through this, together, as a community. So we hope you are OK, but we need to have a frank discussion about mental health under COVID-19, because, as I have often said in this column, the unexpected has now become the expected.
There’s no doubt that many of us on Kaua‘i are struggling with the impacts of COVID and the uncertainty of the future. Even before COVID, we all knew that mental health, addiction and suicide on Kaua‘i were problems, compounded by many issues like the expense of living here and homelessness. My guess is that everyone reading this column has a friend, family member or knows someone who has been touched by these issues. So, while we may be OK, come on guys — we need to acknowledge when we need help — and accept it. And we all know that many of us need it now!
Here are some findings by a 2021 report issued by Mental Health America, “COVID-19 and Mental Health: A Growing Crisis”:
• The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed;
• The number of people screening with moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety has increased;
• More people are reporting frequent thoughts of suicide and self-harm;
• Young people are struggling with their mental health the most;
• Rates of suicidal tendencies are highest among youth;
• People screening at risk for mental health conditions are struggling most with loneliness or isolation;
• People who identify as Asian or Pacific Islanders are searching for mental-health resources more in 2020 than ever before.
This report only validates, based on scientific research, that many of us are feeling stressed out! So it’s important for YOU to recognize how stress impacts our mental and physical lives! And, especially, our relationships. On Kaua‘i, our families mean so much to us. And we need to keep our acts together, for ourselves, for our families, for our neighbors, for Kaua‘i.
There are many resources available for you — and we will share some of those below — but, to access services, you need to start by reaching out. You cannot be a super man or super woman all the time. You may not feel extreme anxiety and/or depression, but it’s OK to recognize that you feel uncertainty. Most of us feel some insecurity these days.
Maybe you feel anxiety about politics or something less critical, but if your uncertainty is how you are going to pay the rent, mortgage, food, bills and/or take care of yourself or your family, it can be just too much. You may have a child in college or a parent in assisted living; your children’s school schedule may be difficult to accommodate; you may have child-care challenges; you might be having relationship problems; maybe you’re alone; perhaps you’ve lost your job, your business, or your hours have been reduced or you’ve been furloughed. It’s really hard to keep it together in any of those situations. What if members of your family have COVID off-island, or friends and acquaintances have died? COVID-19 seems to amplify everything.
So, if your mental health has been stretched to the limit, or beyond — CALL THE CRISIS LINE OF HAWAII: 1-800-753-6879 — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you or someone you know is not in an immediate crisis but needs help, if everything is piling on at once, there are professionals who can help.
Tune in and CALL IN (826-7771) our PAL radio show tomorrow —Monday, Jan. 25 — we will have some professional guests who can help you with these issues — 4 to 6 p.m. ON KKCR.
If you don’t have insurance, the Hawai‘i Mental Health Pro Bono COVID-19 Project helps individuals seeking mental-health experts, including psychologists, marriage and family therapists, clinical social workers and mental health counselors, for FREE. Find this program under Emotional Support and Grief Counseling Hawai‘i resources at the American Red Cross Virtual Family Assistance Center at redcross.org/virtual-family-assistance-center/hi-family-assistance-center.html.
If you have insurance, you might want a referral to counseling services. Having a professional to speak with can ease anxiety and help you work through what you might be feeling.
Ho‘ola Lahui Hawai‘i has a Behavioral Health Program and can be reached at 240-0194. If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, Kaua‘i Alcoholics Anonymous can be reached at 245-6677. They also have a website where you can learn about meetings on Kaua‘i. If you are dealing with the loss of a friend or loved one here or off-island Life’s Bridges Hawai‘i can be reached at 651-6637.
During this challenging time it is so important to address how our children are processing all of the information. According to the Mental Health America Report, children are most likely to feel anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. Child & Family Service offers programs for children feeling stressed, with resources to help you understand how best to talk to kids about what’s going on. For more information call or text 722-7045 or visit Childandfamilyservices.org.
Leadership Kaua‘i provides a way for community to pull together, giving training and mentoring opportunities for youth and adults and can be reached at 246-8727. Other programs helping youth include: Boys to Men, b2mhawaii.org; Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai‘i, bbbshawaii.org; and Keiki to Career, keikitocareer.org.
Kaua‘i also has resources for food, rent, mortgage and utility assistance. Google if you need or call us at PAL Kaua‘i. But we cannot forget that our mental health and the mental health of our children are a vital part of our total well-being as individuals and households and as a community. If we will allow ourselves to be open to understanding how COVID-19 has impacted us, and seek help if we need it, we will be OK. If we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, if we can admit we are not super women and super men, we will be OK. If we pay attention to our youth and check-in with them to see how they are feeling, we will be OK.
This column asked the question “Are we OK?” While we cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore the mental-health impacts of COVID, together we are and we will be OK. If you need more resources, please see www.PAL-kauai.org.
Hang in there. Together we can make it!
“THE PAL PAPERS,” seeking reassuring answers to Kaua‘i’s challenging questions, airs on the fourth Sunday of each month. Tune in and call in to the “PAL SHOW” from 4 to 6 p.m. on KKCR the fourth Monday of each month.