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Utahns’ mental health hasn’t been significantly affected by the pandemic, a new state report says

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) A cardboard art display at the Gateway promoting mental health, Thursday, August 6, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t caused “significant increases” in suicide, mental distress or drug overdoses in Utah, according to the state Department of Health, which attributes that to the state’s existing mental health and substance use resources.

“There has certainly been this narrative out there that we have seen significant increases in suicides or overdose deaths. The good news is that is not true,” Gov. Spencer Cox said at a news conference on Thursday morning.

The data shows “how resilient the response of Utahns has been to this,” the governor added. “It shows that people really are reaching out to their neighbors, people are reaching out to their friends, people are reaching out to strangers they don’t know to find ways to connect, to help people through this very difficult time.”

UDOH released a report on Thursday that showed that, according to preliminary data:

• The number of drug overdoses reported to emergency departments remained stable through the first 50 weeks of 2020.

• There was no “significant difference” in the rate of Utah adults reporting frequent mental distress from March to August of 2019 (13.5%) and March to April 2020 (13.4%).

• Calls to the Suicide Prevention CrisisLine increased throughout the first 10 months of 2020, but the growth was “similar” to increases in previous years.

• However, “anecdotal evidence” from police and victim service agencies “seems to indicate an escalation in family violence.”

“This data suggests that interventions and treatment during the pandemic have remained as effective as in previous years, even in the face of a sudden shift to primarily telehealth and services,” said Kimberly Myers, assistant director of the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, part of the Utah Department of Human Services.

Cox said work on suicide prevention needs to continue, and he encouraged anyone who’s struggling to use the state crisis resources.

Myers urged Utahns who are struggling to “get help. It’s safe to go to your doctor, urgent care, primary care provider, pharmacist and therapist. Nearly every health care provider has the ability to meet with patients virtually.”

— Reporter Taylor Stevens contributed to this report.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the UNI CrisisLine at 801-587-3000. Other crisis resources and crisis-related telephone hotlines (suicide, domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse) are available here. Source: Utah Department of Health

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