Dr. Berney Wilkinson
A recent report from the #CentersforDiseaseControlandPrevention (#CDC) announced that we have recently seen the largest drop in life expectancy since World War II. In 2020, overall life expectancy rates dropped by nearly two years. However, some groups, including #AfricanAmericans and #Hispanic #Americans, saw significantly higher declines (3.3 years and 3.9 years, respectively).
Although the #COVID-19 #pandemic certainly accounts for a large portion of the decline, researchers note that expectancy rates were already declining, prior to the #pandemic. Moreover, the research has noted that causes other than #COVID are also involved. Some of these contributing factors are a group of conditions referred to as “Diseases of Despair,” which include substance abuse, alcohol abuse and #suicide.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
It would be very difficult to separate increases related to diseases of despair from those associated with #COVID. Nevertheless, there are years’ worth of data reporting the rise in alcohol and drug use; likewise, we have seen major increases in #suicide and suicidal behaviors for several years. In 2019, for example, the Substance Abuse and #MentalHealth Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 1.4 million #adults in the U.S. attempted #suicide. Although data from 2020 is not yet available, many professionals estimate that the numbers will be higher than those reported in 2019.
One of the leading causes of the diseases of despair is a pervasive sense of #loneliness. Humans are social beings and it is in our nature to seek relationships with others. Research has consistently demonstrated that a sense of #loneliness is one of the strongest predictors for #depression and #anxiety, which, in turn, are strong predictors of the diseases of despair. One would not have to work too hard to see the relationship between these issues and the #pandemic. And with the recent rise in prevalence of #COVID, primarily due to the delta variant and the more recently identified lambda variant, the ongoing risk of the diseases of despair continues to be a concern.
While it is critical that we continue to practice safety to minimize the spread of #COVID-19, it is just as critical that we work to minimize #loneliness and the disconnected feeling so many continue to experience. We want to spend time with our family and friends. We want to get out of our homes and be with others. And we should do those things. We need to do those things. We just have to do these things wisely.
We all know how to practice the type of safety needed to minimize the risk of spreading #COVID. The statistics are clear; wearing masks and practicing #socialdistancing prevents the #virus from spreading. When most people stopped wearing masks and started congregating, rates began to increase. It is not a mystery. We can meet and spend time with family and friends, we should just wear masks when it is appropriate. We should continue to practice #socialdistancing. No one likes it, but would you rather spend time with your friend, sitting 6 feet apart on your back porch, or not see your friend at all?
While we cannot completely control the influence #COVID has had on our lives and life expectancy, we can certainly do something about our sense of #loneliness. We can get vaccinated, we can practice safety precautions, and we can spend time with loved ones. We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet our life expectancy is lower than many of the other advanced countries in the world. It does not have to be that way. Be safe, be social, and be healthy.
Dr. Berney, a licensed #psychologist with Psychological Associates of Central Florida in Lakeland, is a national speaker and the co-author of “Handbook for Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child.” Listen to Dr. Berney’s podcast, “The Mental Breakdown,” on iTunes and YouTube. You can submit questions or topics to Dr. Berney by email at email@example.com.