Alex was one of the many Americans furloughed this summer due to financial reasons related to the pandemic. And just as job losses and furloughs can add to mental health distress, so can working during the pandemic. A behavioral health therapist shared with one of our reporters back in August that frontline workers are showing similar signs to 9/11 responders, with some therapists expecting damaging effects of working under the stressful conditions of the pandemic to remain with them for the rest of their careers.
But frontline workers aren’t just nurses — they’re also grocery store cashiers, restaurant servers, ride-hail drivers, and yes, journalists, too.
Just last week, almost four weeks after Alex died, we learned of the suicide of another reporter: Hannah Colton, a 29-year-old news director from New Mexico. Like Alex, her eulogy said she had been loved by her colleagues, that she was open about her depression, and that she had been eager to report on the pandemic, the election, and social injustice.
In Pittsburgh, our reporting on the Black Lives Matter movement has been constant in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, especially following last year’s report that named the city one of the worst places in America for Black women. (Read a personal essay from a local Black woman who speaks openly about her own struggles with depression.) The city also has a long history of police brutality and racism, which has led to damaging effects on the mental health of Black people in our region.
For these reasons, Pittsburgh City Paper is donating a portion of proceeds from this week’s Health Issue in Alex’s name to the local mental health organization Steel Smiling, which aims to “bridge the gap between Black people and mental health support through education, advocacy, and awareness.” (You can read more about them in our article on suicide prevention.)
Alex was always very open with us about his struggles with depression, and he was also very open about the importance of counseling. (Read our tips for finding a good therapist.) His death came very unexpectedly, and we are still in a tremendous amount of pain from his loss.
This issue was very difficult for us to put together, but as you’ll read in our story, “How to grieve in a pandemic,” we learned there’s a term called “meaning-making,” which happens when you work through something incredibly awful, and are able to turn it into something meaningful.
We hope, then, that this issue is something meaningful and that it gives everyone out there a reason to keep going. And going. And going.