VOICES: Are you (we) OK? Mental health in the time of COVID

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.

  1. USAF Brat January 24, 2021 6:38 am Reply

    mAhalo Jim Edmonds! 1979-2000 i became self-employed and had in 1973 finished the KCC A.D. R.N. program working through Wilcox Hospital that was the first Kauai EMS home team via a repurposed hearse used as an ambulance. I also became Self-employed with six team operators, and self propelled an emergency call center, ‘Central Answering Physicians Exchange’. The clients this team managed at that time, ultimately provided live-voice telephone secretary support 24-7-365! YWCA rape crisis hotline, AA/NA/OA help and schedules as well as, on-call KMG/Independent physicians contract to provide patient-doctor connectivity. The Gas Company provided families with babies to receive gas for hot water needs, Cesspool assistance for those issues of overflow or breaching, Dixon Service, Aqua Engineers, several tour group business information/booking like CJM Country Stables, Captain Andy Sailing, the Helicoptor Hotline before and during FAA setting flight rules standards and restrictions over most subdivisions and neighborhoods. The Civil Air Patrol, Pilot training with Fly Kauai who doubled as a fireman, Lihue veterinary, Building contractors BZ building, Custom Concrete, electricians, plumbers after Hurricanes Iwa/Iniki, attornies, and generally, ‘Central’ assisted 60+ small business one-man/woman workers in the field, while we installed their “trade name” telephone number as their secretary. At that time, my investor dad had Motorolla install two voice-paging towers on top of Wilcox Hospital and the Kalaheo Clinic which provide islandwide Voice-paging while other less hectic business owners had Hawaiian Tel Pagers. Technology as it is today had not yet manifested. Then, our overhead expenses was limited as I initially worked the phone from my Kapaia home. After Iwa, Central was moved to rice street complete with a 50-pair Hawaiian Tel cable upstairs to ‘City Liquor’ overlooked the back ally of the Hideaway Bar, and had routine drive-by KPD personnel assurring safety in that setting, whereby the office itself had a double-door santuary so it was rare to never that by nightfall we closed down presentation using one lamp, TV, and futon mattress. We worked silently but effectively and it was after Iniki that Hawaiian Tel placed a phone bank in the Wada Building parking lot, so folks were able to make contact with off island family during that recovery period. At this time, many a day, i worked an 8-hour shift at WH and another back-to-back 24-hours at the call center, often with my first born toddler son who eventually attended Pulama Keiki pre-school, then Wilcox Elementary two blocks away! There are valuable connections and amazing people who now have the tools and contact measures that were just being built through the 80s, 90s and 2000s that as above stated can be helpful in time of any crisis and I highly recommend seeking solutions for known problems associated with the writer of this piece. There are other tools I have found via wifi Youtube University, one vlog is callled psych2go.org! Search out that bothersome mode or personality management and step up to the plate and address ALL of it with your bestie, your lover, your adult children, your unko/nt or any other person, that when you look into their eyes, you know you have found a guide to get you through each and every day! Work rEAlly hard, stay busy, non-stop, even if unemployed there are gazillion rubbish along our beautiful shorelines to pick up. If you have a skill-set work It. If you want a skill set ask someone to show you how, if you are a student read or go online to educate yourself, make a garden or hydroponic system, notate every fruit-bearing tree, fishing throw-net, and when in doubt don’t go out or turn your back on the ocean or raging stream. Kauai is a powerful place and together we are able to persevere and prevail, especially with truth integrity and the spiritual, Uhane Hemolele.

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