My name is Tessa Holderman, and I am a 17-year-old student and athlete currently living in Rio Rancho. Throughout the past couple of months, I, along with many other New Mexicans, have been watching the governor’s press conferences to stay updated on the status of SARS-CoV2 in New Mexico, and to learn what needs to be done in order to mitigate the risk of infection.
While I am relieved to be living in a state where the virus is being recognized for the horrible thing it is, I fear that our orders have begun to stray from the guidance of science. They may be beginning to sacrifice the mental health of our population.
In recent months we have accepted the necessary tradeoffs: missing graduations, giving up championships, postponing weddings and even closing our businesses in effort to halt transmission of disease and protect our community. Now, as the results of our struggle have been seen, and just as we have met all of the agreed-upon metrics, we are presented with unjustified red boxes because our governor decided the agreement should not stand.
I think I speak for many New Mexicans when I say that I have lost hope. With no explanation, a goal of 5,000 tests per day that we met (verified on Sept. 22) increases by 2,000.
Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham’s only explanation was, “Really, I’m trying to get us to 7,000.” (https://youtu.be/BQKN4krxD4c?t=237) Restrictions and closures are manageable when the guidelines we abide by have firm foundations in scientific knowledge.
When the same intensity of limitations on our freedoms is being enforced while science supports providing some relief, the public becomes gravely disheartened.
The months of social isolation have worn down our resilience.
For years now, New Mexico has led the nation in deaths by suicide. Data from nmhealth.org in 2017 tells that 2.6 percent of all deaths in New Mexico that year were caused by suicide.
To put these data into perspective, in 2019, 14.5 per 100,000 deaths were attributed to suicide nationally; in New Mexico, we saw 23.7 deaths per 100,000.
I fear that stress caused by this pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns will only lead to our rates increasing dramatically.
I worry about what these restrictions mean for the well-being of my peers as well as others in my community who are finding it harder to fight through. In the recent weeks, I have seen more of my classmates, friends and teammates struggle with anxiety and depression.
That prevalence of emotional distress increases when the criteria for reopening changes in a seemingly arbitrary manner. I know that a return to normalcy is not realistic in the coming months, but I implore the governor to consider what will happen if we cannot regain a higher level of freedom.
I know we all value every single New Mexican life, but whose lives are taking precedence in this moment?