Mental health experts warn that Washington residents are entering a critical period, six to nine months into a disaster, when mental health problems tend to arise or worsen.
This week, Washington marks six months since a stay-at-home order first went into effect. Six months marks a threshold between an initial "honeymoon" phase of the pandemic and a more trying "disillusionment" phase, experts say.
"The period that’s six to nine months post impact from a disaster is typically the hardest time for people," said Kira Mauseth, a psychologist who helps lead the state's Behavioral Health Strike Team. "It’s because we really struggle with that coming-to-terms, that acceptance of what new normal is going to look like. And there’s a lot of information we don’t have about how that’s going to go."
In the weeks ahead, people may notice difficulty concentrating, irritability, and forgetfulness in themselves and others. People also are at higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance use problems and suicide.
Mauseth, speaking at a news conference last week, said these effects are well documented in the aftermath of disasters around the country.
“Our brains respond to disasters in very predictable ways," she said.
Gov. Jay Inslee, speaking at the news conference, said help is available for people experiencing stress or a mental health crisis. He directed people seeking help to a variety of hotlines: