Maryland ranks as the fifth happiest U.S. state, according to a new study.

The report from financial research firm WalletHub looks at a number of quality life, social, economic, mental health and community engagement factors as well as COVID-19 restrictions to gauge overall “happiness.” The rankings factor in depression, suicide, substance abuse and divorce rates as well as income and job growth and how many hours residents spend time working, volunteering and participating in sports and recreational activities.

We know the Eastern Shore and our communities are also great places to live and to find happiness. We have the Bay and the ocean. We have proximity to Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia without the traffic congestion and big city stresses.

Still, we need to remember our communities have challenges to our overall “happiness” — especially this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic may be easing, but its impacts are still very serious and real, and that does not even count all the impacts of social and political unrest.

The ramifications on jobs and Delmarva’s economy continue to impact local businesses and their employees.

Elected officials and policy makers at every level of government need to remember — and voters should demand — concrete plans and action to help small businesses to survive and to save jobs.

This should not get lost in the homestretch of the presidential election or the political battle over whether President Donald Trump should fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Supreme Court appointment is important (for both sides). But we also need to see help and action to save jobs and livelihoods.

While Maryland ranks well in the happiness factors, we should not lose sight of the mental health and other personal strains created by COVID-19.

The pandemic has resulted in lost jobs, pay cuts, social isolation, kids stuck at home for school and day care and a total disruption of normal life. And that does not even account for the impacts of social unrest and political turmoil.

All that magnifies anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges our friends and neighbors may be facing. The stresses can also lead others wrestling with addictions and substance abuse to have relapses and go back to counterproductive behaviors. The stresses and dangers are very real, including a rise in overdoses on the Shore and across Maryland. These tragedies are happening, and the groups and programs offering help are also strained by the pandemic and its current and future impacts on budgets.

We cannot afford to shortchange mental health programs and addiction counseling.

Mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention are also the focuses of a new virtual speaker series launched by APG Media of Chesapeake. The Stronger Together Chesapeake Bay Live Video Series offers insight and resources for those who might be struggling, or may have a loved one who is struggling.

The series, launched Sept. 17 with Julie Slivka with the Maryland Coalition of Families, and continues Sept. 24 with Katie Dilley of Mid Shore Behavioral Health, who will talk about substance abuse and the COVID-19 pandemic. Their chats can be viewed at ChesapeakeBayLive.com.

Maryland is a happy place to live, but we are not without challenges, and many of our neighbors on the Shore are struggling economically and with other challenges.

Let’s not lose sight of that with our policy and community priorities and our daily interactions with others. Kindness and compassion can make a world of difference to someone who might be struggling.

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