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CrossWinds Counseling & Wellness is hosting a mask decorating contest on its Facebook page from now until Jan. 22 in an effort to motivate local citizens to consistently wear their masks and keep themselves and the public safe.

Participants are invited to decorate their masks however they choose, take a picture of themselves wearing the mask and then submit the picture via email to mcooper@crosswindsks.org by Jan. 22 at 8:30 a.m. The photos will then be uploaded to the CrossWinds Facebook page to be publicly voted on by “likes”. The individual with the most “likes” will receive a $100 cash prize.

Amanda Cunningham, CEO of CrossWinds, said that her agency was glad to host this event because it has been a priority for CrossWinds to be a consistent advocate of healthy living, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve tried to be pretty active throughout the pandemic in supporting community partners and wanting people to be healthy and so we saw this as a good opportunity to participate,” she said.

The contest is part of the broader #KSBeatsTheVirus initiative put on by the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) and the State of Kansas. According to the KLC website, the purpose of the initiative is to “inspire local solutions that keep Kansans healthy, schools and businesses open and our economy strong amidst the pandemic.”

Cunningham said that the decision to hold the contest via Facebook was made because CrossWinds’ social media platforms have seen a substantial increase in engagement during the pandemic due to the helpful tips the agency has posted.

Participants in the contest do not need to be CrossWinds consumers and can be from any of the seven counties that CrossWinds serves, which include Chase, Coffey, Greenwood, Lyon, Morris, Osage and Wabaunsee Counties.

Cunningham explained that CrossWinds’ motivation for the contest was not simply to see people in the community be physically healthy, but to stay mentally healthy as well.

“We want individuals to understand the importance of slowing the spread of the virus because the longer it goes on, the longer term impact it will have on our mental health,” she said.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have experienced a shift in their mental health as a result of isolation and uncertainty.

“We’re really seeing and hearing a lot of anxiety [about] the unknown, fear and concern for loved ones who are getting sick, and, of course, when loved ones pass away, the grief that comes with that,” Cunningham said. “It’s had a lot of impact on people’s jobs and being unsure if they’re going to have a job or if the job is going to make it through the pandemic. There’s just a lot of additional stress and worry. Anxiety also can even co-occur with depression and so we’ve seen an increase in those things.”

Cunningham said that some areas in the country have seen higher suicide rates, and while there has not been an increase in CrossWinds’ catchment, even the loss of one community member to suicide because of the mental health stresses of the pandemic would be too many.

“We really want to get ahead of it and make sure that, if we can get the pandemic over with faster, it will have less impact,” she said.

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