Blog Post

Let’s Talk: About Disaster Distress and Mental Health 

By Davena Jones

Last week I rode the bus to Pleasant Hill Bart and then grabbed an Uber to the Conference office in Concord. The Uber driver, at first, was a little cold in his response to my hello and good morning. My first thought was rude, and you will not get a tip from me. After a few silent moments., the driver began to speak about how tricky business has been lately. He shared how he only earned $30.00 for driving someone to San Francisco from the East Bay. He said, “how am I to feed my family off $30.00?” He then opened up deeper and said: “you know there are times when I am driving ‘alone’ that I just want to let the wheel go and allow my car to smash into a wall and just die.” I began to pray, seeking God to give me a word of encouragement to share with this man. I asked him to tell me more about his children. Afterward, I said, “sir, they need you in all the ways you can be present in their lives. Don’t you give up on you nor them?” He told me that he would remember that, followed by thank you for listening and may God bless you, and I said and may God bless you also. 

There is a young lady who also thought her life was not worth living as well. And on Christmas Eve, while driving, she did let go of the steering wheel of her car… to God be praised, there was a roadblock, and her car turned around. I should mention this was going on while her beloved mother and loved ones were on the cell phone with her. They heard her sing “everything to God in prayer” then, loud noises, gravel from the tires and followed by her cell phone going dead, there was nothing but silence. For two hours, her family did not know if she was dead or alive. Then, finally, the phone rang, it was the hospital, she’s alive, banged up, but still here. Good news for her family, terrible news for the survivor. And she struggles even today with “I am still alive” how I wish that I was not. 

A Facebook post read: Praying for that young lady who was on the San Rafael bridge looking prepared to jump, that she did not jump—driving 50+ miles an hour and no ability to stop. However, I did notice a man in an orange vest standing towards her but away from her. I called 911, and after several tries, I got through. The operator shared that the call center had received several calls, and help was on the way.  

These are only three stories that I am sharing here in this space. However, there are many more and even more who are suffering in silence. Times are hard with or without COVID, and a way forward seems further away and less possible to achieve. So this week’s Let’s Talk article is to speak up and out about Mental Health issues in the “Church,” yes, in our pews, online members, in our family, our neighbors, and a stranger struggle to make it daily.  

According to the CDC-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, communities have faced mental health challenges related to COVID-19 associated morbidity, mortality, and mitigation activities. In addition, there were public health practice implications for providing intervention and prevention efforts to address mental health conditions. There is a call for Community-level efforts, including health communication strategies prioritizing young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers.   

During June 24-30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and elevated suicidal ideation. [1] 

One of the resources that I selected to highlight is The Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH). Administered by the National VOAD member organization Vibrant Emotional Health and is funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  

The national Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH) provides confidential, multilingual crisis counseling and support for anyone in the U.S./territories experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters, including COVID-19. Call or text 1-800-985-5990 to reach a trained counselor 24/7/365. 

The DDH also offers Strength After, the first storytelling site of its kind. The purpose of “Strength After” is to provide a centralized hub to share stories of hope and recovery from disaster survivors, responders, loved ones, and caregivers from across the country regardless of whether their experiences happened five decades ago or five days ago. For more information on DDH services, to request printed materials for distribution in your staff offices or field-based operations, or any other question or collaboration, email ddh@vibrant.org.  

[1] (Czeisler MÉ, Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — the United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1externa n.d.) 

7 Comments

  • Marjorie Matthews

    God bless you, dear Rev. Davena, for this much needed message. There have been so many who’ve lost hope over these past 15 months, and my heart has broken time and time again at their pain. Thank you for these very helpful resources!

  • Janet Capella

    Yes, I was so glad to see you write about Our hidden workforce, who labor during pandemic and continue every day to move our broken world forward. Folks need prayer, to be seen as people with needs, and real support for the wage increase. Those who use ride services must continue to minister, listen, and ‘speak out,’ on behalf of our brothers and sisters. See, how we all suffer–spiritually, physically, mental health, and illness-so present. Give love and survival tools. Our brothers and sisters suffer in the ‘mean streets,’ stores, services, health care, fields, and more-our workers of the world labor. Wake Up, Speak Louder to Common Good, Change, and Healing. We know how to ‘walk in another person’s shoes. ‘ Native Americans and Jesus teach us to see the faces and hearts in one another. Here we all are trying to survive on this small planet together!

  • Rev. Davena,
    Your post brought me to tears as it reflects the realities, compassion and healing work we are all attempting to do. Your post is a gentle reminder of the impact we often have — without knowing or realizing — how we might touch someone. Blessings – Rev. Dr. Diane Johnson, PhD.

  • Theron L Jones

    Rev. Jones,
    This is something we have had to live with in our life with family and friends. I thank you for bring this to the light so we can all hope to see it around our own life daily. God bless us all to do the work.

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