Healthy Living: Anxiety and Thoughts of Despair on the Rise


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September is Suicide Prevention Month and during this unprecedented time, and experts say more people are experiencing anxiety and thoughts of despair.  

Dr. Gregg Jantz is the Director of The Center: A Place of Hope in Edmonds. He says the statistics are staggering, “Suicide attempts are way up in the ages 12 to 17 and we are also seeing a surge in suicides and suicide attempts in men, males 50 and above. So it is an intense time.” 

Dr. Jantz says despair moves us into irrational thinking where people start to look for a way out because how we have been coping hasn’t been working.  

“I’m kinda calling this time if you will, a pandemic purgatory. People just like we are stuck in a place that is kinda miserable and yet we look toward the future and well we don’t know, that doesn’t look good either and we know we don’t want to go back to march, and so people are feeling this.” 

He says a lot of people are relying on escapist behaviors like substance abuse. Dr. Jantz says alcohol sales are up 5 to 6-hundred percent adding that cannabis use is also up, “People are kind of in denial about how much of a substance they’re using. So it’s like, ‘yeah it really was six glasses of wine and I am doing that often.’ So that is a sign. So we gotta be real with ourselves... We are always looking for a rationalization to continue the behavior, so be honest with yourself, are you doing that?” 

We have all been hoping for change since March but Dr. Jantz says we have a threshold and we can only tolerate so much. That breaking point appears to be just past the 6 month mark as Forecasts for our state show that suicide rates are expected to be at all-time highs October through December.  

So how do we know it is something more than just a little stress or anxiety and what are some of the things we should be looking for in ourselves and others?  

Dr. Jantz says, "You may find things like I don’t even have the energy to really take care of myself, it’s like, it takes energy to brush my teeth. Self-care becomes more and more difficult, that’s one of the signs.” 

A change in sleeping habits could also be a sign.  So what can we do about this increase in anxiety so many are feeling? 

“The two choices we have right now Ali is reset or regret. So this is a chance for us to reset some things in our life but one of the dangers is we have been really alone, we have been too isolated, we have to speak up right now.” 

He says speaking up might not be for yourself, it may be for someone you care about. It may start with a conversation, “Tell them how much you care about them. And it could start off this way, ‘I love you so much, I have something important I would like to talk to you about, would that be ok?’ And they’re gonna say, ‘mm yeah...’ and then share, I just notice each night you are drinking more and more and I love and care about you and I’m concerned. And ask them, ‘have you noticed this?’ 

Dr. Jantz says have 3 people in your circle you can talk to, one of them might be a professional, and remember, it is critical to take some time to reset so you don’t regret, "This is the day, and we can use today, right now, to say this is my turning point, I’m not gonna let this go further. I am going to reach out because I don’t like the direction this is going.” 

There are so many resources if you or someone you know is struggling. The center a place of hope has a directory here, or you can always look at national resources available here.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 


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