The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our daily lives. Concerned about residents with pre-existing mental health conditions, Assemblyman Kevin Rooney (R-40) is calling for detailed tracking focused on the impacts of conditions such as unemployment, isolation and economic recession on this vulnerable population.
Rooney wants Gov. Phil Murphy to conduct a state-wide tabulation of how the pandemic has led to setbacks, depression or the loss of life. The assemblyman said both Murphy and the Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have not helped experts get the data needed to both quantify the problem and provide solutions.
“I echo the governor’s comments from May when he expressed concern (the) impacts that the shutdown could have on the mental health of some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Rooney in a press statement. “However, unlike him, I believe it is also critical to find out all the facts about the deadly impact of the shutdown and not just muse about it with no follow-up.”
Rooney Wants Action
In May, Murphy acknowledged in a press conference that job loss and isolation can be a “toxic mix,” stating “I don’t know specifics in terms of tracking suicides, but we have said this: The combination of isolation and now other factors like job losses are having big impacts on folks, there’s no question about it.”
During the same briefing, Persichilli said there was concern about individuals with mental health issues, but suicides were not being tracked.
“I find it disturbing that a medical professional such as Commissioner Persichilli would not seek to find as much critical data as possible to gain knowledge to help us understand the ramifications of a long-term shutdown which she has vociferously endorsed for months,” said Rooney. “We need to track deaths by suicide and depression every bit as much as deaths from the coronavirus in order to have the required science to make informed decisions.”
Impact of Unemployment
Experts believe individuals throughout the United States are at risk for mental-health related complications due to the closing of the economy, high employment rates and the requirement to stay home. These conditions can lead to increased rates of suicide.
There is greater concern for New Jersey residents due to the length of the shutdown that Murphy required to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Economists estimated that approximately 1.2 million New Jersey workers have suffered a job loss due to the pandemic. This number could also be higher, as it does not include workers who have not either able to file or are not eligible for benefits.
Coping with Stress
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledge that the unknown impact of an infectious disease can be very overwhelming. Social distancing, while important to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19, can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Focusing on emotional health, regular exercise and breaks from news reports about COVID-19 are a few steps that can be taken to help reduce pandemic-related stress. Finding ways to unwind is also important, as is knowing where to seek assistance if help is needed.
The ending of home isolation can also impact stress levels, and more so for those recovering from COVID-19.
Among the many resources recommended by the CDC include the Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990), National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233).