Message from the Director

July 2022

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As a longstanding business owner and service provider in Delaware, I, alongside many other national and state leaders, have grave concerns over the general wellbeing of our family, friends, and neighbors. According to the Oxford Dictionary, wellbeing is, “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.”

By this definition alone, it is evident that an increasing number of Delawareans are not well. Mental health concerns were already on the rise across America prior to the pandemic. In 2019, 19.86% of adults experienced a mental illness, equivalent to nearly 50 million Americans. Post-pandemic, the numbers are considerably worse. For example, almost 5% of all American adults report having serious thoughts of suicide, an increase of 664,000 people from last year.

We are experiencing in real time how the collective trauma caused by the pandemic amplifies present issues across the state.

We hear the term trauma quite often in our society today, but do we actually know what it is? Trauma is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as, “the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event.”

It can manifest in short and long term emotional, physical, and psychological symptoms. While trauma is a normal reaction, the effects can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s ability to live a normal life. This is particularly true in our youth, as over 2.5 million young Americans have severe depression, with 15.08% of youth experiencing a major depressive episode in the past year. In cases such as these and many others, mental health access in both public and private sectors is needed to treat the stress and dysfunction caused by trauma and restore the individual to a state of wellbeing.

As the previous data conveys, it is undisputable that the COVID-19 pandemic was a horrible event that continues to plague communities in Delaware and beyond. Each of us experienced conditions such as uncertainty about our health, fear for our loved Sussex County Health CoalitionHealthySussex.org2 ones, and worry over the economic impact on our households and country. Our freedoms were abruptly constrained as we endured a seemingly endless lockdown, and we lost connections with others.

Many of us lost loved ones. All of these circumstances compounded to create the perfect environment for anxiety to thrive. Although this shared trauma marks us all, many people within the Diamond state are suffering more than others. The lack of sufficient mental health resources in Delaware means these people are left to traverse life without the tools needed to posture them for healing.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A PERSON SUFFERING FROM TRAUMA?

People who have endured traumatic events often appear shaky, disoriented, and withdrawn. They may not respond to conversation as they normally would. They may have nightmares, edginess, irritability, and poor concentration. Emotional symptoms of trauma include denial, anger, sadness, mood swings and emotional outbursts. It can also manifest physically, with paleness, lethargy, fatigue, poor concentration, and a racing heartbeat. While these symptoms are common, they are not exhaustive and can vary in severity. Those enduring the effects of trauma may also redirect their overwhelming emotions toward  others, such as friends or family members, or gravitate toward self- destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse.

Nearly 8% of U.S. adults and 4.08% of youth had a substance use disorder in the past year.

Although the communication of pain is often unique to the individual, the common thread of suffering weaves through every personal experience. Unfortunately, in Delaware, this suffering is only austerely acknowledged, as is evident by the scant funding allocated to public health initiatives and programming at the state and local levels. Individuals seeking help for their trauma will find sporadic resources. Furthermore, mental health providers are all stretched thin; many of these faithful servants are suffering amidst the increased demand for services, with no sign of aid from state legislation or government initiatives in sight. As I watch millions of dollars enter our state for workforce and infrastructure endeavors, I am concerned that the wellbeing of the constituents who make up this workforce is being neglected. Despite the current surplus of funds, absolutely no additional money has been allocated  toward Public Health in the state budget for 2023. This is in direct contrast to our neighboring states, all of which allocated additional funds in their state  budgets for public health post-pandemic.

I ask us to consider our leaderships’ priorities amidst this glaring deficiency. While I do not disagree that all sectors of our communities deserve a quality workforce, I must argue that in order to have such, you must have healthy individuals to comprise that very workforce. As it currently stands, it appears as though the wellbeing of constituents is less imperative than a business’ bottom line. If this is truly the case, then we’ve lost our way as a state.

To not bolster the efforts of public health workers who continue to work tenaciously with the limited resources available in the pandemic’s aftermath is  unconscionable. We must pursue a change. Delaware deserves the best quality workforce, but one that emphasizes and supports the pursuit of wellbeing for every Delawarean.

Peggy M. Geisler
Executive Director

 


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