New Issues That Matter series addresses growing pandemic pressures

After months of coronavirus-related shutdowns, restrictions on travel and gatherings, mask mandates, rising infections and a growing sense of loss, everyone feels the stress and strain.

No matter whether you’re grieving the death of a relative or friend to coronavirus, or if you’re a working parent with kids struggling to learn online, an essential worker who faces the public, a caregiver to someone with vulnerabilities, working in an improvised home office or you simply miss being with people during isolation, the pandemic has been hard on mental health.

Starting Jan. 14, Sno-Isle Libraries will try to ease the public’s distress with a new Issues That Matter series, Pandemic Pressures: Supporting Community and Family Mental Health. The series will focus on the profound effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on everyone’s emotional well-being with events aimed to help individuals and families of all ages.

 All Issues That Matter events will be online as Zoom webinars.

“We’re all in a pressure cooker,” Sno-Isle Libraries Programming Coordinator Anne Murphy said. “We’ll focus on reducing the stress, not on what’s causing the stress.”

Sno-Isle Libraries staff are working with public health officials in Snohomish and Island counties to identify issues, develop event topics, recruit panelists and provide current mental-health resources. Organizers plan to schedule several Pandemic Pressure events in early 2021.

The health officials emphasize that it’s normal now to feel “not OK” amid the pandemic, so it’s more important than ever to destigmatize and normalize asking for help to deal with emotional and mental-health needs. People don’t have to bottle up feelings of fear, grief, sadness, anger and frustration that the pandemic has stirred up. Everyone has those feelings now and it’s a struggle to process them.

“It’s easier to talk about the pain now because everybody is going through it,” Murphy said. “What can we do to make things better? We want to help people learn to define when to get help for themselves or others and identify the different forms of help that are available.”

The first Issues That Matter event, Wellness in Uncertainty, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14. Panelists will help individuals and families learn if their feelings are normal or if they’re a sign to seek help, how to identify warning signs in yourself and loved ones, and share information about available resources. Online registration for this event is open now.

Issues That Matter organizers recognize how the pandemic has affected families on multiple fronts. Sno-Isle Libraries recently surveyed customers with children in school or day care to learn how the pandemic has affected their routines and what related issues they want to discuss.

Organizers are considering several family-focused event topics, including how to keep scheduling norms for stability, parenting skills, technology issues, community and school resources, substance abuse, self-care, coping with grief and others.

“We know we need to get resources to struggling families,” Murphy said. “We know they’re hurting and they need help.”

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