The Silent Pandemic

opiod addiction, fentanyl, mental health, overdose, pandemic
The Silent Pandemic Foundation

There is a worldwide pandemic which is raging across country borders around the globe. It is a pandemic that recognizes no age, gender, racial or socioeconomic boundaries. It is the Silent Pandemic lurking beneath the everyday news we receive. This pandemic, though hardly new, has quickly become the disease which will take a global effort to combat and eradicate. The Silent Pandemic is the disease of Mental Health and Opioid Addiction, and it is a pandemic which can no longer be ignored.

In recent years, the words mental health and addiction were not considered a disease, but more of a moral failing. Fortunately, the medical establishment and government agencies have begun the process of removing the moral and cultural stigmas because of the long-held knowledge this is truly a disease, and not the failings of an individual. Like many diseases, it is treatable and those afflicted can recover with time, counseling, and the correct support network.

The Glamour Lifestyle Industry, pageantry in particular, is widely recognized as the leader in promoting causes (platforms) which address topical, societal concerns through direct action. A perusal of Pageantry magazine will succinctly verify, without a doubt, the evidence that our industry is committed to helping others like no other. However, in such a large industry, there are bound to be similar causes many systems or titleholders promote, whether by organizational directive or in many instances, a personal and emotional connection to the platform. Just as our industry is diverse, so is the diversity of the community services our industry supports. We commend each organization and individual for their commitment and devotion.

However, as the leader of the Glamour Lifestyle Industry, we acknowledge the time has come to not only support your organizational platforms as we have for over 42 years, but form an organization that will represent the industry in its global entirety. It is an organization which along with supporting and promoting the existing platforms, provides an opportunity the entire Glamour Lifestyle Industry can support as one. Combining all of our efforts and using the power of the crown, we can bring more common awareness and acceptability to this dreaded pandemic. Thus, The Silent Pandemic Foundation was created as a testament to what our industry will truly accomplish.
The word pandemic will forever be a part of our consciousness due to COVID-19. It is clearly understood the undeniable health and economic consequences this pandemic has wrought. It is equally devastating when analyzing the worldwide death toll only within the last year. However, there has been another frightening development which has become all too prevalent within the past year, the Silent Pandemic. For years, we have seen a glossed over story or feature in the mainstream media regarding prescription opioid abuse. We have seen news articles about and heard of unregulated “pill mills.” Whether by overprescribed prescription drugs or illegal and synthetic variants, the tragic outcome of the Silent Pandemic will be the same. How mainstream has it become and why should we all join forces to combat the Silent Pandemic?

The numbers of affected individuals or families by the Silent Pandemic indicates a clear problem for the populace. Remember, the pandemic has no racial, age, gender, or socioeconomic boundaries. When we are made aware of a “celebrity” victim, we take momentary notice. Recently and through notoriety, we have discussed names such as the rapper DMX who succumbed to years of substance abuse, the son of OWN Network host Dr. Laura Berman, Saoirse Kennedy (granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy), Tom Petty, Michael Jackson, Prince, Amy Winehouse, and the historical demises of Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe. More recently, Demi Lovato discussed the health consequences in the battle with her own disease. The “celebrity” list is exhaustive, but more importantly, there are countless faceless victims each and every day who will never garner a headline nor be remembered except by those suffering the pain after being left behind following a preventable tragedy.

Since the spring of 2020 when the world went into a fearful lockdown, there has been an explosion of mental health and substance abuse hospitalizations which have overwhelmed the current resources of many municipalities. Much has been attributed to the stress of social isolation, financial uncertainty, educational concerns, familial worries, and of course, the worry of becoming afflicted with COVID-19. During the recent twelve-month timeframe, there has been a 29 percent increase in calls to government helplines, which is a small fraction of those afflicted. There has been a 38 percent increase in opioid overdoses or deaths. We must recognize the death toll of over 81,000 of our mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, and sisters attributed to this disease. The devastating effect on these individuals and, as important, their families and those who love them, is immeasurable. What if we include those suffering from the disease of depression and may be considering the unthinkable? Federal statistics in 2019 showed only 11 percent of Americans were experiencing symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression. During the recent and ongoing crisis, that percentage had dramatically increased to an astonishing 34 percent by May 2020. By November 2020, 43 percent of our friends and loved ones were displaying signs of clinical anxiety or depression. It is time we act as one; now is the time for The Silent Pandemic Foundation, a non-profit organization currently awaiting 501c3 designation.

Recently, a portion of the economic stimulus package financially addressed the challenges presented by the Silent Pandemic. Unfortunately, not many took notice or were aware of the historical significance. Included in the package are funds designated to address the issues of mental health and substance abuse. How much? $4.25 billion dollars, more than ten times what has been allotted in previous bills, but far less than actually needed according to health professionals. Through our common cause, we will change the narrative with the Power of the Crown.
In speaking with many of our industry’s directors and titleholders, there has been overwhelming agreement that our industry can and should have a common cause. It is a cause which will bring the Glamour Lifestyle Industry together as never before. We are one, we are strong, and we have a voice that is unparalleled. For example, Miss America 2020 Camille Schrier addresses the disease of mental health and opioid addiction, Miss Earth 2020 Lindsey Coffey speaks on mental health as well as environmental issues, while Miss USA 2006 Tara Conner has been forthright in addressing the disease of addiction for years. The list goes on.

The time has come to unite the Glamour Lifestyle Industry in the common cause of The Silent Pandemic Foundation. We welcome your support in joining us in the cause of fighting the related stigma and challenges of this disease. After speaking with many of you already, we welcome your stories and experiences, whether battling a personal crisis or as one who cares for someone suffering from the disease.

The ravages of the Silent Pandemic have affected more of us personally within our industry than could be imagined. The discussions I’ve had have been heartbreaking. No one should go through the fear of this disease by themselves. No one should experience the fear and devastation brought on by losing someone to this curable disease. Together, we WILL make a difference. We WILL use the power of the crown and of our combined voices to implement change. We WILL work with our local, state, and federal representatives to shine the spotlight even greater on this curable scourge. Together, we are The Silent Pandemic Foundation… Breaking the Silence. M

Carl R. Dunn, President
The Silent Pandemic Foundation, Inc.