By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The numbers were shocking, even to Denise Krupp.
- The number of substance-abuse deaths in 2020 is predicted by the Centers for Disease Control to increase 15% from 2019 to 77,449. That’s 212 deaths a day.
- Since the pandemic began, 40 states have recorded increases in opioid-related deaths.
- Sixteen percent of adults in a Morning Consult poll said they were drinking more during the pandemic.
Isolation because of the pandemic is a key factor, said Krupp, who will wrap up Mental Health Week virtual lectures, organized by the student club Canyon Counselors, with a discussion on the topic at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Those in recovery are told to reach out to others for help and connection but are now being told to isolate because of the coronavirus, which can more severely attack the lowered immune systems of substance users.
“The more people isolate the more likely they will relapse, and for those that never got sober, their use will increase,” Krupp said. “This leads to overdose and more deaths.”
Also, many residential treatment centers are closing, walk-in clinics are limited and street ministries are halted because of the pandemic.
Younger adults aren’t immune: One in four millennials had increased their alcohol intake during the pandemic, according to a Morning Consult poll.
College students may feel that isolation, too.
Emalee London is a junior ground student but is doing her Behavioral Health Sciences studies online from her home in Phoenix.
“As college students we are used to that social interaction, making connections and getting involved and meeting face to face,” said London, who as President of Canyon Counselors helped launch the idea for virtual Mental Health Week programs. “Even though technology played such a big role in how college students interact with each other, there is still something important about that face-to-face connection.
“So students have begun to feel isolated and everything feels so different and that can impact a person’s mental health, whether they feel depressed, lonely or have substance-abuse issues and are finding a way to make themselves feel better.”
Krupp’s program grew out of a survey of club members who were asked what topics they were interested in learning more about. The mental health effects of COVID-19 on counselors and the general population rose to the surface among the four lectures that began Monday.
“With COVID this semester we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be engaged,” London said. “We had to look at different ways to get community involvement.”
The club typically holds meetings in person but was limited to 10 in person because of the pandemic, so it added a virtual meeting.
“The great thing about it is it’s really expanded our club,” she said. “With Zoom (meetings), we have had students who are attending GCU from all over the country who are joining virtually.”
The meetings and lectures such as Krupp’s are a great way for students to stay engaged and expand their learning, she said.
And to stay connected, which is vital for mental health.
To join Krupp’s 1 p.m. discussion: Link
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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