By Congressman Markwayne Mullin
During the last year, our nation endured seemingly endless lockdowns and restrictions as a result of the pandemic. Across the country, kids were kept out of schools, businesses were closed, places of worship were shuttered, and communities were restricted from gathering, resulting in many feeling isolated and alone.
While our nation is beginning to heal from the pandemic, it is impossible to know the toll that lockdowns and isolation have taken on mental health in America. Recent data from Rice University shows that state-imposed lockdowns and economic damage in places like California and New York have placed many Americans at a greater risk for mental and physical health issues. By shutting down large portions of the economy, many Americans experienced furloughs, layoffs, and general economic restriction. Even though we are returning to normal life, the impact to one’s mental health is still there.
Particularly with the added risks, it is more important than ever to talk about mental health and to make sure that those who might be struggling have the tools they need to get help. Oklahoma is lucky to have organizations like Light of Hope in Claremore that have stepped up during the pandemic to expand their crisis response, mental health, and substance abuse treatment services due to the need in the community.
During my time in Congress, I have made it a priority to break down barriers to mental health care. I helped secure more funding for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in Oklahoma and across the country, which help people who are experiencing a mental health crisis get the treatment they need. Additionally, I have advocated for an increased use of telehealth services so our rural communities have access to the mental health care that they need.
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and we all must do our part to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health care and to share resources for anyone who might be struggling in our communities. Please remember that mental health care is equally important as physical health care, and you should never be ashamed for asking for help. If you or someone you know is struggling, know that no one is alone in this fight and that help is available.