Lately, when I consider the Observer, why I founded it and my experiences professionally and in life, I think I started on the wrong foot, quite honestly.
You see, I was fresh out of corporate journalism and very much still in the mindset of followers, clicks and trying to cover the “important issues” – which larger media companies were already covering.
Now, while I do credit the work of myself and others who have committed to the Observer over its short life so far with revealing and spotlighting truth during the 2020 Kenosha crisis and fallout, I don’t think that’s exactly what’s needed anymore.
We are facing a major mental health crisis
Since August 2020, three of my friends/acquaintances have committed suicide. And their deaths have cut deep wounds into both the activist and music communities that will leave holes and scars for years to come.
We have lost so many bright, ambitious and positive Kenoshans due to depression and due to mental health struggles.
Whether it be the isolation of lockdown, the strain of living through the limitations and barriers of the COVID-19 pandemic or the exacerbation of underlying mental health issues due to those stresses, data suggests that mental health struggles are on the rise in America – and even globally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 41.5% of U.S. adults exhibited symptoms of anxiety or depression in early 2021. Globally, seven in 10 people report that they are struggling or suffering, according to Gallup.
“Americans’ ‘excellent’ mental health rating remains at a 21-year low amid the COVID-19 pandemic, holding at 34% after dropping to that level a year ago,” Gallup reports in the Dec. 3, 2021, post “U.S. Mental Health Rating Remains Below Pre-Pandemic Level”.
“Before 2020, this measure of Americans’ emotional well-being consistently reached 42% or higher, averaging 45% from 2001 to 2019.”
There is Help
Vivent Health offers fentanyl test strips, so that users can determine the presence of fentanyl in other substances. For more information, call 262-657-6644.
Kenosha County Public Health also offers free training and supplies of Narcan, a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. For more information, visit https://bit.ly/KCNarcan or call 262-605-6741.
The Kenosha County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Resource Center may be reached from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at 262-764-8555.
The Kenosha County Crisis Hotline operated is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, at 262-657-7188. Kenosha Human Development Services operates the hotline.
Drug overdoses also on the rise
We are also facing a growing drug overdose and use problem.
Just this past July, Kenosha County Medical Examiner Patrice Hall released data and a statement alerting residents to increased overdose deaths.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that authorities locally and nationally report is increasingly found to be added to other drugs, including counterfeit prescription pills, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
Using just a small amount of fentanyl can be deadly, and users often do not even realize it is in the substances they have obtained, according to Hall’s release.
In 2021, 40 of the 53 toxicity deaths in Kenosha County involved the presence of fentanyl or a fentanyl analog, according to Medical Examiner’s Office data.
How can we change mental health and addiction outcomes?
The first thing we can do to help the issue is to share community resources.
Hall stressed in her July release that the county does have resources to test drugs for fentanyl that are available to the public.
“This includes fentanyl test strips, which became legal in Wisconsin earlier this year and are now available from Kenosha County Public Health and Vivent Health Kenosha,” Hall’s release states. “These can be used to detect the presence of fentanyl in other substances. Strips may be picked up from 8:30 to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at the Kenosha County Public Health Job Center Clinic, 8600 Sheridan Road, Kenosha.”
For more information on what’s available at the job center, call 262-605- 6775.
We need to talk more about it
The best way to get more hands on a community project is to show just how many people of various parts of a community that problem affects.
And I think a lot of people would be surprised who is impacted by these issues. For instance, it is just as likely that the successful businessman walking past a homeless man on the street is the drug addict.
Addiction knows no class, no race, no sexual orientation. It doesn’t differentiate between those “who have potential” and those struggling that our society automatically looks down on anyway.
Much like a virus, it can spring up and spread anywhere. And ignoring that fact leaves you only to react when it’s finally knocking at your door after making its way through the other parts of the city.
I Need You
As an individual, I’ve been very vocal about my own struggles with mental health and addiction. However, I haven’t let the Observer dive deeply into that.
Perhaps, like others, I get uncomfortable with too many people knowing about my past.
However, the time’s come that the old excuse of that doesn’t work anymore.
People are dying. They are feeling hopeless.
People in our present time are looking for just one light that says there’s something at the end of the tunnel.
What if you could be it?
With that thought, I want to invite anyone and everyone to submit columns about their own experiences, struggles, or just their story of their journey living with these extra weights.
My point in this is not to display addicts for disparagement or to have anyone embarrassed. That would completely fail what I’m trying to do here.
No, I’m simply offering a place to tell a story that might help even just one person somewhere else in our city, or even our world since we do have some international traffic.
My point in this is also not concerning views, clicks, popularity or some reward of any kind. Those don’t drive what I’m doing even the slightest.
You’re also not obligated to regularly write. Want to do a one and done? Go for it.
All you have to do to learn more or participate is to email me at email@example.com. And I won’t print anything without you seeing the final product of how I’m presenting the text first.
I’m just the editor in this situation, it’s your story.
Simply a labor of love
This is a labor of love for a community that has loved me too.
Because I don’t want to lose one more person to either of these issues when we, collectively, have enough resources to stop it.
Again, email anything you want to share to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions are welcome, and I promise no judgment for whatever your story is.
Please, help me try to put an end to this.
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