During the past few months of the pandemic and community quarantine, it has become abundantly clear that there has been an overall decline in the country’s mental health.  Depression and anxiety are increasing.  The combination of a downturn in the economy, people losing jobs, and the lack of interaction with others, has created many feelings of hopelessness and isolation.   According to USA Today, the United States has seen a 25% increase in the suicide rate.   In order to combat these daunting statistics, there a few things that can boost the “happy” chemicals in the brain.  It is now more important than ever, to create an environment that fosters a feeling safety and security within our bodies and our own homes.

Completing a task or celebrating a small win for the day can produce higher levels of dopamine in the brain. Hugging your family and playing with a pet will boost your oxytocin.  Serotonin is a mood stabilizer, which can be produced through sun exposure and meditation.  Endorphins increase with exercise or by watching a funny movie.  These chemicals combat feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety.  Practicing healthy self-care habits are crucial to your mental stability as an individual.  Being mindful to put these habits in practice daily can make a big difference to one’s overall mental health.

As we look ahead, September is suicide awareness month.  Mental health professionals continue to collaborate and cooperate to support the community’s mental health crisis through this pandemic.  Organizations are creating programs that enhance the feeling of support while remaining socially distanced.  Online support programs, 24-hour hotline, and online counseling are in high demand for those needing a lifeline.  So many times, when feelings are expressed and witnessed, the ability to heal from those emotions become possible.  Joining an online group may combat the feelings loneliness and normalize the grief journey.  You can find more information abut these groups on Center for Hope and Healing website.

Creating a “happy brain” within and reaching out to each other is a great way to reduce the loneliness in the community.  If you are having thoughts of suicide, it is always best to call the national hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the nearest emergency room.  As we look to prevent suicide, we must educate ourselves and others on how to address thoughts of suicide and lessen the stigma that it carries.