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Progress made with mental health deaths likely undone by pandemic

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Posted at 1:15 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 16:49:20-04

Experts say progress made in 2019 in the area of mental health deaths was likely undone by the pandemic.

“The increase in terms of alcohol, drugs and suicide may have to do as well with the pressures people are experiencing in their lives,” said John Auerbach, President and CEO of Trust for America's Health, a nonpartisan nonprofit.

Trust for America's Health found increasing deaths due to drug and alcohol use, but a slight drop in suicide deaths in 2019. But preliminary data from during the pandemic suggests all that will increase.

The organization's report "Pain in the Nation" suggests looking at social and economic factors for early intervention. It suggests schools can help with screenings in young children showing behavioral problems.

“We believe these are medical conditions and should be treated the same way that we treat other medical conditions,” said Auerbach.

“It's not your fault to get addicted to an addictive substance that's addictive in humans,” said Emily Lynn Paulson, founder of Sober Mom Squad.

Paulson gave up drinking alcohol four and a half years ago. Now, she's trying to help other women who may be questioning their drinking through her support group, Sober Mom Squad.

She says as people start to reenter society, they're noticing more issues around alcohol use.

“Maybe drinking was fine at home because I could keep it protected, but now, I'm going to drive my kids to school or now I actually have to go to an office, and I can't hide my drink on the side of the computer,” said Paulson.

There are already stats on increased alcohol use during the pandemic. In an NIH survey, where mostly women younger than 50 responded, they reported drinking about 27 drinks over the course of 12 days within a month. More than 40 percent reported binge or extreme binge drinking.

Paulson says many moms aren't comfortable when their children start to recognize their drinking.

“And it doesn't mean that you need to be all done. It doesn't mean you need to tell everyone that you're done drinking or you have to put some label on yourself. It's just that, you know, obviously, alcohols not serving you and let's figure out how we can find better ways to fill those needs,” said Paulson.

Sober Mom Squad meets online.

There are also other resources for anyone interested in changing drinking habits. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a helpline to connect you.