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Public Health Officials Turn Spotlight On Mental Health

Courtesy Priority Spokane

There are signs that Covid pandemic life is moving closer to what used to be normal.

Dan Barth from Frontier Behavioral Health in Spokane says that became clear to him last weekend at a cafe in Spokane Valley.“There was a group of women, there was five of them sitting on a couch. They were all obviously vaccinated. They didn’t have to wear masks. They were sitting there socializing and they were talking about what they’d been through over the last year and they were laughing and it gave me a sense that the trajectory of where we are on seemed to be a good one," he said.

Despite those glimmers of normalcy, Spokane public health officials say our overall mental health seems to be worsening. But they say there are places where people can get help.

Spokane County Interim Health Officer Francisco Velazquez says much of the public’s attention has been focused on physical health, but he says mental health is also an issue, especially young people.

“We do know that almost 10% of our youth is suffering from some level of depression. That is really not good," he said.

Velazquez spoke Wednesday at a Spokane Regional Health District briefing. He was joined by Amanda Reedy, the chair of Eastern Washington University’s School of Social Work.

“I’ve seen the struggles that students, faculty and staff have faced during this difficult year of uncertainty and online education," Reedy said.

Reedy says she recently went through training in the Covid Stress and Trauma Education Program. It’s a statewide program sponsored by Priority Spokane, the Center for Trauma and Stress Education and Peer Washington. Reedy says she led a small group of Eastern students through six sessions designed to help them process their Covid-related trauma.

“Students were very open in what they have dealt with during Covid. They indicated that the lessons and practice opportunities offered each week have been really beneficial and meaningful each week in their lives,” she said.

That training is free and virtual. You can register through Priority Spokane, which also plan a session in June to train group leaders.

For those seeking therapy that’s less formal, Dan Barth from Frontier Behavioral Health says his organization has the capacity to see more people who aren’t current clients.