To the editor:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for all. Yet, like so many other catastrophes, it has been especially difficult for specific groups, whether small businesses, people living from paycheck to paycheck, older people and/or those with compromised immune systems, and so many others that cannot be enumerated in this brief letter. Two groups that may be especially vulnerable include those with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI) and the valiant people who serve them day-to-day.
Though millions of people suffer from of anxiety and depression, SPMI includes disorders that require lifelong treatment and more intensive care. They include major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. Several studies indicate that people with these disorders are also more likely than the general population to have compromising health conditions, such as diabetes. They are also more prone to suicidal ideation and are more likely to require acute psychiatric care due to worsening symptoms.
Those suffering from SPMI encounter challenges that are overwhelming in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Specifically, folks with SPMI are far more likely to self-isolate than the general population. Isolation provides fertile soil for worsening mental and physical health symptoms. Immune systems are consequently more compromised than usual. Isolation is also a harbinger for increased suicide risk.
How can we help? Consider a financial donation and/or making and donating PPE to those with SPMI and their service providers. One agency that could benefit from such a donation is Mental Health Resources Inc. (www.mhresources.org), which serves people in Hennepin, Ramsey, and Dakota counties. You can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Minnesota chapter (namimn.org) to find out how you can get involved.