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A reminder that we are all in this together

A couple of headlines in this past weekend’s edition of the Williamsport Sun-Gazette caught our attention.

“‘Heroism phase’ — US suicides dropped last year, defying pandemic expectations,” read the first.

It was enough to make us stop and take a second look, given reports during the year that the COVID-19 pandemic was taking its toll on mental health.

On the contrary, preliminary government data showed the number of suicides fell by 6 percent last year, the largest annual decline in at least four decades.

Stunning — but why?

Some experts suggest it’s because of a “heroism phase” that accompanies the start of natural disasters and wars as people band together and support one another.

“You saw that, at least in the early months of the pandemic,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

She explained the evolution of mental health distress and warned that the mental health ramifications of the pandemic may come later.

That’s where the second headline comes in.

“Loneliness is rampant — calls, hugs may be the cure.”

This should not be surprising, given the social isolation that has accompanied this pandemic.

However, much of the world, including the United States, was struggling with “remarkably high” levels of loneliness before COVID-19, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who has called loneliness a public health crisis.

The pandemic magnified the problem. In response, one Chicago hospital created a “friendly caller” program to help lonely seniors cope with isolation.

One woman who received a call via the program said the caller “was genuinely caring.”

How simple, it seems, and yet we often miss this in the daily business of our lives, with or without a pandemic.

The impact of an ounce of caring can be remarkable, and it doesn’t require a hospital to do this.

All it takes is few minutes to reach out to somebody who may be alone and ask how they are doing.

A hug would be a bonus, perhaps once we are vaccinated.

Until then, let’s make it a point to offer a few kind words and remember that, yes, we are all in this together.

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