Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling says Vermont is seeing an uptick in suicides.This raised a concern that there might be a trend. The pressure continues to mount as time goes by.
The spread of the coronavirus has created a very stressful environment, especially for the older population and those with underlying health conditions. Practicing social distancing because of the coronavirus can lead to social isolation. Social isolation is a significant problem that can lead to poor cardiovascular function and depression.
AARP Associate State Director, David Reville says, “In Vermont we have more than 58,000 people who are over age 50 that live alone. And so they are at higher risk of social isolation, which is now magnified by the restrictions around social distancing.”
To combat social isolation while still maintaining physical distance, David Reville suggests getting involved with mutual aid groups.
“It’s a tool that folks can use to help find a group in your area and you can request a friendly call from an AARP volunteer or you can request support or delivery of groceries or medication.”
Mutual aid groups connect volunteers with older neighbors. The volunteers can help run different errands or just have a friendly phone call. AARP launched a website that connects people in the same area by entering your zip code in to their service.
AARP is encouraging people to identify vulnerable adults in your neighborhood or family and make an effort to stay in touch regularly.
Another group that is vulnerable to social isolation is veterans. They can be struggling with loneliness and fear. White River Junction is rolling out ‘video connect’ groups for veterans who feel this way. These are groups who meet virtually to participate in a shared activity.
Clinical Psychologist at White River Junction, Laura Gibson says, “they have been really innovative and not only have brought together the face to face contact with the veteran and their therapist or their prescriber but the veterans get to have connection virtually with other veterans.”
Some of the ‘video connect’ groups include gardening and mindfulness, along with kayaking and other events.
Laura Gibson says people who feel stress — connected with a traumatic situation in their past — may be experiencing symptoms all over again.
“If what is going on now in the world is triggering memories of prior trauma then those particular veterans may be at higher risk of having an exasperation of PTSD” said Gibson
According to Gibson the VA has rolled out telehealth and has been pushing it for the past six months. The VA has been well equipped during this challenging time. They also have same day access to mental health services available for Veterans. The number for that program is 802-295-9363 ext. 5760.
If a veteran is having an acute mental health crisis or having suicidal thoughts they can call the 24/ Veteran Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255.
According to Commissioner Schirling, the department of Mental Health is working with Public Safety to enhance suicide prevention efforts. They’re encouraging all Vermonters to use technology and connect virtually with loved ones.