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Iowa's Stressful Year Could Take Time to Manifest

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Mental health experts say they're using this Mental Health Awareness Month to convey to people they aren't alone in struggling to cope with added stress from the past year. (Adobe Stock)
Mental health experts say they're using this Mental Health Awareness Month to convey to people they aren't alone in struggling to cope with added stress from the past year. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
May 14, 2021

DES MOINES, Iowa - In Iowa and around the U.S, people have faced a flurry of stressful events and crises in the last year. During Mental Health Awareness Month, experts say it might not seem obvious that help is needed, but the signs may develop over time.

From the pandemic to the election, to last summer's derecho storm in Iowa, many segments of the population are emerging from a stressful era.

Peggy Huppert - executive director of the Iowa chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness - said altogether, it's a lot to simply shake off without being aware of the lasting effects on a person's mental well-being.

"We often think of a traumatic event, or events, as having an immediate impact," said Huppert. "But actually, it usually takes a while to see the full impact."

For example, she cited research showing suicides peaked nearly three years after the financial crisis of 2008.

Experts say the signs to monitor include changes in a person's sleeping habits, or a general lack of energy or interest in most activities.

Despite greater mental-health awareness, Huppert said people often are still reluctant to raise concerns about a loved one's situation.

Huppert said friends and family might feel like they're causing trouble if they speak up, but she insists that isn't the case.

"Sometimes people are waiting," said Huppert, "hoping that someone is going to say something and intervene."

She noted that young people might especially feel the effects from recent isolation, but are not likely to open up to others about those feelings.

Even with many Iowans vaccinated and much of society reopening, Huppert said it's hard to forget the emotional turmoil of the past year. As groups get together again, she said there's another way to spot a warning sign.

"If someone is constantly canceling plans," said Huppert, "to ask, 'What's happening? Is there something I can do to help?'"

And as more people head back to the office, she said it's important to foster a supportive environment in the workplace.

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