VOICES: Check on your loved ones. You could be saving a life.

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest opinion column by Dayton native Jayden Pullen appeared on the Ideas and Voices page Saturday, Feb. 13.

The havoc COVID-19 can wreak on a body is not the only pain the virus can brings.

During these trying times, please check on your those you love by asking about their mental wellness.

I share my personal story here in hopes that it helps someone.

I have seen mental health issues arise or be exacerbated during this pandemic. Safety protocols force us to essentially stay away from each other.

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Once ordinary tasks like going to the movies with friends, hanging out with family members and walking around the mall can not be done without going through certain necessary procedures.

We wear a mask, socially distance and ask others questions to try to determine if there’s a chance they’ve been exposed to the potentially deadly virus.

In the name of safe, many of us are simply not going around people unless absolutely necessary.

I have seen how this sudden and significant reduction in personal contact has negatively affected people’s mental health, including my own.

Having Aspergers, I already tend to feel alone.

Now, I feel alone all the time.

I imagine almost everyone following the proper safety precautions is feeling some level of loneliness.

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I imagine my 89-year-old great-grandfather felt alone before he killed himself a few weeks after the shutdowns started.

He was not able to see his family as much as he had before.

I won’t pretend to know exactly what he felt, but when I had to quarantine myself to my room because a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19, I found myself sinking deeper into depression being cut off from my dad, stepmother, and 3-year-old brother.

I eventually started physically hurting myself.

When my family found out, they were surprised and scared. I had not told anyone how bad my depression had gotten.

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My whole family rallied behind me. They are working with me to establish goals and a routine that not only helps keep me focused on things I love to do, such as writing, but also keeps me engaged with people.

As I begin this healing process, I think about how lucky I am to have the family that I have, and I hope that everyone has the same level of support, but I know there must be people out there that don’t.

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Please check on your loved ones, have a conversation with a stranger in the grocery store and direct message your old high school friends.

I know it sounds cliché, but you could be saving someone’s life just by engaging with them.

Dayton native Jayden Pullen excelled in track and field, cross country, swimming, marching band and theatre while in high school. Pullen is now a freshman at Columbus State Community College, where he is exploring liberal arts options, working a part-time job and writing. His aspiration of joining the military could not be fulfilled because he has Asperger Syndrome, a type of autism. Guest columns are submitted or requested fact-based opinion pieces typically of 300 to 450 words.

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