Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman recently checked himself into a hospital seeking treatment for clinical depression.  The Democratic senator won a hard-fought election last year, even after suffering a stroke during the campaign.

According to Fetterman and his office, the senator has experienced depression on and off throughout his life. Some medical experts say this latest bout could stem from last year’s stroke even though no medical connection has been made to date.  

Nevertheless, thankfully, the senator was brave and wise enough to seek professional care. More of us should consider following Fetterman’s lead as depression remains a critical issue now three years into the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Yahoo! Finance reported this week that LifeWorks, a leading provider for well-being solutions supported by TELUS Health, revealed that “almost half of American workers say they would be interested in a confidential assessment of their mental health.”

The report cited evidence suggesting “a minimal improvement since the depth of pandemic anxiety, isolation, and depression.” Participants listed the economy and finances as two of the most substantial contributors to their anxiety.

In addition to American workers, college students, teens, and children continue to face crippling anxiety, leading, in some cases, to chronic depression. During Student Mental Health Week, WebMD reported earlier this month, “A recent study showed that nearly one-third of students worldwide said their mental health has worsened since returning to campus following the COVID-19 lockdowns.”

The news of a growing depression pandemic led the U.S. Department of Education to announce more than $188 million last week to support mental health and student wellness. The report stated, “The mental health crisis facing students has reached a critical point, with more than one in three high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the height of the pandemic.”  And as we have already noted, in some cases, poor mental health has increased.

Crisis. That’s the word I repeatedly hear as I talk with colleagues, friends, and family about the rising anxiety sweeping the world.  

From financial stress to relationship struggles, people feel the pressures of life quickly mounting.  Throw in the combined catastrophes of climate change and war, and there is no wonder why our anxiety levels are through the roof.

The psalmist once wrote, “May the Lord give strength to (the) people! May the Lord bless (the) people with peace!” (29:11) Oh, how we all need strength and peace during these trying days.

According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals seeking resources for mental health face several barriers to their search. The barriers include but are not limited to (1) navigating the system, (2) fear, and (3) the stigma of mental illness.  

The U.S. healthcare system is broken, especially regarding mental healthcare.  Navigating insurance company networks and healthcare professionals’ preferred carriers can be a nightmare for even the most skilled person.  

Navigating the system has become a barrier, and out-of-pocket costs associated with care discourage people from finding help. We need a better and streamlined system to address this crisis.

Fear remains a contributing factor. It can be downright debilitating for those worried about how others see them and the unknowns associated with mental healthcare. However, the results can be highly optimistic when individuals like Senator Fetterman and professional athletes open up about their mental health.  

When people read and hear about public figures getting help, then fear can be reduced. Consequently, they feel empowered to get help for themselves.  

Finally, unfortunately, a stigma still surrounds anxiety and depression.  There have been moments in my own life when I questioned myself, asking, “Why can’t I handle this?  Why can’t I get past this?  Why am I letting this bother me so much?  Why do I feel such an overwhelming feeling of anxiety and depression?” 

I know.  You know.  God knows.  I am human.  

As people of faith, we need to continue lifting positive examples of people seeking help for their mental health to reduce the negative stigmas associated with it. 

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth,” Fred Rogers said. For all of us wrestling with pain, anxiety, and depression, please know you are not alone.  Others are walking alongside you, ready to offer comfort, encouragement, and peace.

As the effects of the pandemic continue to be revealed, please seek help if you need it and be aware of those around you, for you never know the load others carry. Like the COVID-19 pandemic, we can get through this as well – but we must do it together.

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