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The coronavirus is deadly, no doubt, but so too are impacts of the pandemic lockdown

To suggest that our world is in turmoil would be an understatement of massive proportion.

MILES VANCEThe continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — on people's health and livelihoods — will easily qualify as one of the biggest stories of the first half of this century.

Despite the momentous nature of living through a global pandemic, however, we'd probably feel a lot calmer if that was all we had to deal with these days.

But no. The nature of living in 2020 is that every month — almost every week — seems to send another shockwave to the system, another life-changing event, another reason to question whether life tomorrow will look anything like life did yesterday.

Just for a moment, let's take a brief look back at some of the momentous things that have already happened in the year 2020. And while we do that, can we make sense of the fact that 2020 is barely half over, that there's almost six months remaining in a year that still includes a presidential election?

To provide a reminder of what this most tumultuous of years has been like, let's consider all the things that happened just in the first month of 2020.

• At the start of the year, Hong Kong was in the midst of its protests against the repressive Chinese government.

• Then there were the devastating fires that burned through Australia at the start of the year.

• Next, the U.S. killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike on Jan. 3.

• Back on Jan. 7, China reported its first case of the COVID-19 virus, and on Jan. 11, China aknowledged its first coronavirus death.

• Less than a week later, the U.S. House of Representatives opened the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

• On Jan. 20, the U.S. recorded its first case of coronavirus in Washington state.

• On Jan. 26, the news of the day reported that former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his daughter had been killed in a helicopter crash.

• On Jan. 28, President Trump announced a Middle East peace plan with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.

• One day later, Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace NAFTA.

• On Jan. 30, the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

• And on Jan 31, the United Kingdom formally withdrew from the European Union.

That was just January.

Since then, we've added the stress of racial tension brought on by the killing in police custody of George Floyd and everything that ensued afterward — protests, rioting, looting and further strains on our businesses, government and societal institutions.

And let's be honest — all of these stresses have been magnified by the effects of the societal lockdown imposed because of the pandemic. People — millions and millions of them across our country — have lost their jobs and their careers. At the same time, they've also been separated from almost all of their support systems, kept away from friends, parents, partners, churches, clubs, sports and more.

In many ways, the lockdowns have separated people from all the things that kept them sane — and that's a big, big problem.

According to Mental Health America, Oregon is almost the worst state in the country in mental health — 50th among the 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

MHA bases its rating on 16 different categories, including: adults with any mental illness (AMI); adults with substance use disorder in the past year; adults with serious thoughts of suicide; youth with at least one major depressive episode (MDE) in the past year; youth with substance use disorder in the past year; youth with severe MDE; adults with AMI who did not receive treatment; adults with AMI reporting unmet need; adults with AMI who are uninsured; adults with cognitive disability who could not see a doctor due to costs; youth with MDE who did not receive mental health services; youth with severe MDE who received some consistent treatment; children with private insurance that did not cover mental or emotional problems; students identified with emotional disturbance for an individualized education program; and mental health workforce availability.

Related to those numbers, Oregon ranks 17th in the country in the rate of suicide among its residents.

None of this is good for residents of St. Helens, Scappoose or other areas of south Columbia County. People need jobs. They need their churches. They need their friends. They need their families and they need their freedom. The common theme running through all of these items is this — people need purpose in their lives.

Yes, the world is a dangerous place, especially in the COVID-19 era. But the world without jobs, churches, friends, families, freedom — and most of all, purpose — is even more dangerous.


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