The McLean County coroner and the head of a crisis hotline and information center in central and other parts of Illinois sounded a warning note about people in mental crisis on Friday.
Coroner Kathy Yoder and Providing Access To Help (PATH) Director Karen Zangerle said four recent suicides in central Illinois highlight the need to raise awareness that there are resources for those in crisis.
“As the effects of COVID-19 continue, some residents in central Illinois struggle with increasing symptoms of mental fatigue, depression, bipolar episodes, and thoughts of suicide,” they wrote in a joint statement.
Symptoms can include enduring sadness, trouble with concentration, excessive fears or worries, or extreme mood changes of highs and lows, or problems sleeping.
Even though the state has moved to Stage 4 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, Zangerle and Yoder said the situation might not improve.
“People still have fears about safety for themselves or loved ones. While the different levels of quarantine resulted in isolation, people may continue to be withdrawn from friends and activities,” they said.
Zangerle said society faces multiple stresses right now.
“It’s not just COVID. It’s the upsurge in protests. Protests will hopefully move us to a better place, but people still face the stress of what should I be doing or what shouldn’t I be doing. Economics is a huge thing. And that’s probably what we see the most of. We have taken more than 5,000 calls seeking financial help or information since mid-April,” said Zangerle.
She said a bitterly divided political landscape also may contribute. All those pressures can accumulate, if someone is already struggling, Zangerle said.
“I have never been through anything like this in my 35-year career. We tried to do planning for a pandemic, but nobody was prepared for what happened. A lot of the time I feel like I’m flying without a net,” she said.
Zangerle said the database department updates information on a daily basis about services and information available to meet people where they need to be met.
“We’re doing what we usually do, except we are under a lot more stress and higher volume,” she said.
Suicide risk can be measured by continued feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about the future. Emotional states of fear can lead to feeling a lack of control over situations that can result in feelings of guilt or incapacity.
People experiencing some or all of these symptoms can reach out for help. Talking to family and friends may provide a different perspective. If that option is not available, call 211, a 24/7 hotline where there is understanding, support, and referrals to ongoing support through agencies and programs.
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