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Episode 31: The Long Winter

Adrian Florez

Why this was a memorable story from 2021: This episode of KNKX’s Transmission podcast sticks with me. I spoke with people who were navigating mental health challenges at the height of the coronavirus pandemic last winter. Some had lifelong mental health struggles that flared up just as treatment was getting harder to find. Others were dealing with issues like depression for the first time — learning how to recognize it within themselves and how to deal with it. I’m grateful to the people who opened up about these issues. I think their stories are still relevant today as we head into another winter. — Will James

Emergencies do something to our brains. A few months after a catastrophe, people find themselves more irritable and less able to concentrate. Rates of depression and anxiety rise. Same with substance use and suicide. This has been observed in disaster after disaster. 

In fact, there are three distinct phases: the honeymoon phase, the disillusionment phase and the recovery phase. People who lived through Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 know what all of this feels like.It’s hard to say exactly when our current disaster started. We’re now past the anniversary of the first COVID-19 diagnosis in the U.S. A lot of people point to March 11, 2020, as the day things got real. The day the NBA canceled its season. The day the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus was a pandemic. However you look at it, our bodies have endured nearly a year of chronic stress and disruption. 


“I mean, there's been a few points this year where I didn't want to see what happened. Like, I didn't want to keep going. And I'm proud of myself for getting through that and just focusing on surviving another day,” said Christina Jumper of Seattle.


At the beginning of winter, KNKX started reaching out to strangers to find out what they were going through, what it felt like and, most importantly, what they were doing to try and pull out of these emotionally dark places. I ended up having these long, frank, sometimes funny conversations with a whole range of people about their mental health. 


Some of them had never sought therapy before in their lives, but here they were, seeking help for the first time. Others had almost lifelong mental-health struggles that got worse just as treatment got harder to find. Then there were people who knew they had tendencies for depression and other problems, but they thought it was all in the past. 


In this episode of Transmission, three people talk about how they’ve experienced these emotional stages: honeymoon, disillusionment and recovery. 


Corey Snow, who lives in Olympia, is working toward recovery. One of his takeaways from this past year is to ignore the critical voice he sometimes hears in his head.


“You are not the things that that voice is telling you," Snow said. "It's OK to ask for help, and it's OK to need help. It's all right, it's all right to need help. Even if you are with other people who also need help, it's OK for you to need it as well."


If you’re having a mental health emergency, Washington state runs a 24-hour crisis hotline at 1-866-4CRISIS.  


You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.


If you’re not in crisis but feeling sad, anxious or stressed, there’s something called the Washington Listens Hotline. Someone there will just talk with you. They can also help you get professional care. Call 1-833-681-0211.


We want to hear how you are doing; the highs, the lows and the in-betweens. Please send us an email or a voice memo to

News Transmission
Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.