I love getting together with my family for the holidays. For me, gatherings look like meaningful conversations and warm hugs around a brightly lit Christmas tree. The rise in COVID-19 cases across the country, however, has precluded us from getting together with our families this season. Indeed, we all are doing our due diligence to inhibit the spread of this virus. But are we, instead, neglecting the mental health needs of those most vulnerable around us?

We have seen social isolation during the first state-wide lockdown precipitating a precarious rise in suicidality and depression among Maine residents. Unfortunately, these trends will likely rise during this lonely holiday season. It is also concerning that the lack of federal stimulus aid might force vital services that attended to individuals in crisis to be shut down.

For those living with physical and intellectual disabilities, more challenges arise. Current COVID-19 precautions hinder family members from visiting their relatives who are patients in mental health facilities, and the resulting lack of socialization for these patients is taking a negative toll on their mental health. For those who rely on in-home services, limited access to care negatively impacts both their physical and mental health.

Even though we have to social distance during this holiday season, I hope we make an extra effort to care for our friends and family who live with mental health challenges during this holiday season. Text them. Call them. Check up on them. Be kind.

Zachary Pierce

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