COMMENTARY: You are essential!


By Sen. Peter MacGregor

Beyond the headlines of the COVID-19 crisis are the untold stories of how stress and uncertainty affect people's mental health. Restrictions on our movement, assembling, jobs and daily routines compound the situation.

This unprecedented time spent away from work, church, school and the otherwise normal routines of life can understandably be challenging. The resulting isolation and anxiety are affecting people in ways they never could have expected or even thought possible.

It can be hard to come to grips with such a sudden and drastic change. One day things are great, and the next, you find yourself without work, struggling to figure out how to make a vehicle payment or pay rent, let alone afford groceries for a hungry family. If you're lucky enough to have a job, the challenge of working remotely and in isolation can be daunting on one's mental health.

My heart breaks for the single moms who lost jobs that were deemed nonessential, and for the laid-off dads who worked hard so their wives could stay home with the kids. The employed are not without consequence, either. Physicians, nurses, first responders, grocery clerks, fast food workers, tellers and others who remain on the job bear the anxiety of becoming infected with every shift.

There is no question that the loss of life due to this pandemic is devastating. But the overall cost to everyone in our community in terms of quality of life and loss of well-being is an issue that cannot be ignored during this crisis. People with debt are three times more likely to have a mental health issue, especially depression, anxiety and psychotic disorders. Financial stress is the second most common cause of suicide, after depression.

Dr. Adam London, Ph.D., RS, DAAS, who is the director for the Kent County Health Department, recently joined me for a community tele-town hall on the coronavirus. He said suicide, alcohol, substance use disorder, child abuse/neglect and depression are real mental challenges people face every day because of the financial stress of the pandemic.

"Mental health concerns have consistently been listed near the top of our community's priorities whenever they are surveyed," London said. "Our county and the state were faced with suicide and overdose epidemics long before anyone had heard of COVID-19. We need to be mindful that the stresses of this crisis are going to further exacerbate those problems."

Depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, addictions, child and senior neglect, and suicide - these are all very real concerns under these troubled circumstances. It is no wonder that desperate calls to crisis support centers and suicide prevention hotlines have increased since COVID-19 began its destructive spread across the country.

If you are an individual who finds yourself stuck in a battered relationship, fearful and unable to get out, there is help. If you or someone you know is having a hard time, you are not alone. And if you want to talk to someone, there are people who are available to help - who want nothing more than to see you well, and who will stop at nothing to help you get there. There are several state and national services that are available for people who may need help, including:

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services "warmline" for residents who have mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is operated by certified peer support specialists and is available seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Call 888-733-7753.

Michigan 211, which is available all day every day to connect with help of all kinds. Go to or call 2-1-1.

The Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7/365 crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters, like COVID-19. Call 800-985-5990 or visit

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources. Call 800-273-8255 or go to

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24/7/365 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. Call 800-799-7233 or visit

Faith-based institutions and religious leaders can be of great benefit. Consider calling a local parish, church, or other place of worship for prayer or counseling.

Your life has meaning and value. You are essential. Your family needs you. Your friends need you. Michigan needs you. This moment is but a page in the book that is your purposeful life. We are all in this together, and together we will get through it.

As we begin to see signs of hope, Michigan will find a safe path forward, focusing on the health of our residents. However, this will not be business as usual. As a state, we need to be open to different methods of delivering services and products, with particular focus on the big three: social distancing, wearing masks and washing our hands. We can do this!

May God continue to bless our Michigan communities and our nation as we fight to overcome this horrible pandemic.


Senator Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, is the Senate majority floor leader and chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Community Health and Human Services.

Published: Fri, Apr 24, 2020