May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I know this past year has been challenging for all of us. Personally, many of our families have experienced economic hardship and personal heartache. Professionally, states and tribes are still struggling from effects on their programs, including lower paternity establishment performance, limited access to courts, and technology challenges.
Yet amid these ongoing struggles, I’m heartened by the resilience of the child support program and how we’ve helped struggling families during the pandemic. States and tribes adapted to unforeseeable changes to keep providing services. Many moved to virtual meetings and court hearings, provided outdoor genetic testing, and enhanced online services to safely work with our customers.
Not only did our programs have to shift, but so did we. We quickly had to balance home and work life, and many parents had to become teachers overnight. This naturally caused stress and mental health challenges for many Americans. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation Visit disclaimer page , over 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder at the beginning of 2020, up from 10% in 2019. Stress from this pandemic has also caused Americans to have difficulty sleeping (36%), trouble eating (32%), and increased alcohol use and substance abuse (12%).
Mental health resources
You may have heard flight attendants advise passengers, “In the event of a change in cabin pressure, put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” In order to be capable of helping others, we must ensure we are taking care of ourselves first. It’s important to acknowledge the stress we’re all under and to know when we need help. Here are several resources to consider when seeking mental health aid:
- National Institute of Mental Health Visit disclaimer page : Find free mental health resources, including how to cope with the stress of COVID-19.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Visit disclaimer page : Find information on treatment centers and mental health services. You can search by location, language, youth treatment services, payment options, and more.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Visit disclaimer page : If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to speak with a professional 24/7 and learn about free mental health resources.
Linda Boyer, Acting Commissioner
This blog gives the commissioner a forum to communicate directly with child support professionals and other stakeholders about relevant topics. The Commissioner’s Voice is reprinted from the May 2021 Child Support Report newsletter.