You v. the World
Reclaiming control of your life through connection
Suicide has long been a growing concern in the US. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased 31% over the past 20 years. Closer to home, the number is even more concerning as the rate of completed suicides in the state of Vermont is 30% higher than the rest of the country.
According to Katie Baroody, a licensed clinical mental health counselor based in Arlington, VT, “While people complete suicide for a variety of reasons, there’s often a common theme to their decision: an unrelenting sense of powerlessness and hopelessness.”
Breaking points years in the making
While a suicide may often appear to be triggered by a single event—loss of employment, a breakup, trauma, or a financial crisis—it’s more likely the result of an ongoing issue or even lifelong circumstance.
Baroody says, “There are a tremendous number of social and economic factors that impact the quality and trajectory of an individual’s life. Things like a lack of equitable access to education, affordable health care, and child care, along with concerns about physical safety and financial security. Add to that the impact of mental health diagnoses, racism, homophobia, abuse, and other traumas. This all negatively contributes to the sense of not being in control. That then leads to feelings of hopelessness for a positive, happy future.”
COVID’s compounding influence
According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25% in the first year of the pandemic. But, as Baroody notes, “COVID alone didn’t cause a mental health crisis; rather, it simply added fuel to an already very well-burning fire.”
For those who already lived with a sense of a loss of control, the feelings only grew. And, most importantly, the loss of meaningful connections, which we all experienced, compounded the sense of isolation.
“COVID was very much a trauma which robbed us of the normal connections that provide some relief from stress and anxiety” says Baroody. “Now that it’s largely behind us, we need to reforge the connections that offer opportunities for hope.”
Finding hope through connection
Baroody says the best preventive measure for depression is connection with others.
“Forging connections with others can dramatically reduce feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be a big deal. You can find groups on Facebook or Instagram with people with whom you share an interest—maybe a sports team or a musical artist—or maybe you just live in the same community. You can even use online forums to find people to meet with in person for a weekly walk or to share books at the library. Whatever it is and whatever the form, the goal is to genuinely engage with others. You’ll not only feel less alone, but you’ll also begin to feel valued, which can help to boost your overall mental health.”