‘Nobody in this world is immune to substance abuse disorder’: Groups hope to combat pandemic’s impact on mental health


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — When the Twin Towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, and when the waters rose in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, some Americans turned to alcohol and other substances to soothe their pain.

The coronavirus pandemic, over a period of 18 months, has done the same.

“The pandemic is no different: it is considered a disaster,” said Stacey Johnson, vice president of the Riverside Behavioral Health Center.

Prior to the pandemic, 11% of the nation was at risk for alcohol and substance abuse disorder. Today, that number has soared to 42%, according to a report in the New York Times.

“That’s a huge increase I think everyone is experiencing signs of anxiety, depression for some it could be substance abuse as well,” said Johnson.

(Credit: Getty Images)

Recent studies show during the pandemic more women have been binging on alcohol; that’s four or more drinks in two hours. Because of the trends, Riverside Health is expanding its services to include an addiction intensive outpatient program. It starts next week and it will resemble alcoholics anonymous. To learn more about the program contact the Hampton-based center at 757-827-3119.

“Nobody — nobody in our world is immune to substance abuse disorders,” said Johnson.

Another group is shattering the silence of suicide. Friday night at the Virginia Air and Space Center, several community partners will shine a light on the hope and healing of suicide awareness and prevention.

Organizers are particularly concerned about teen suicide. It is the third leading cause of death among teens and adults under the age of 24.  

“So, the idea is to shatter that, and we created to sort of illustrate that in that moment of broaching a subject with a friend or a loved one that you can shatter that bubble that someone will find themselves in,” said Kathy Damon, with Shatter the Silence.

The annual event is free and open to adults and children. Because of the pandemic, a virtual option is offered at https://bit.ly/ShatterthesSilence2021.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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