We were asked by the editor of the Villager about the mental health impact of the pandemic; this was our response:
There are so many fears and hardships that are getting triggered by the pandemic, causing stress, anxiety, and depression to increase for most people. We are constantly being bombarded with alarming news, which reinforces an internal experience of threat and danger while there is little in our immediate personal control. Most people have been feeling an immediate fear of sickness and suffering for themselves or loved ones. While fear or anxiety helps us to be cautious and adopt new shelter-in-place behaviors quickly, many feel petrified to the point of experiencing sleeplessness, irritability, fear of leaving their house and any contact with others. We can have a hard time knowing where to draw the line between caution and paranoia.
We have also been confronted by numerous stressors simultaneously with little time to prepare - such as balancing home, work (or loss of work) and homeschooling. We have yet to come to grips of moving about in a world that feels so surreal – ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping or going for a walk feel stressful and even dangerous. People are so strained with numerous stressors that poor coping habits and reactive emotional responses are leading to an increase in substance abuse and relationship/family discord. We may actually see an increase in mental health issues once we are past the acute phase of sheltering-in. Many of us, including children, struggle with how to identify and express the emotional distress we are feeling. For many, the stress related to the pandemic will come out in delayed responses of regressed behaviors, stress reactions and ongoing fears.
Very few of us have been through such a historical hardship. Currently, we are focused on coping and surviving the shock and “unreality” of our circumstance, and soon many will be feeling the impact of the ongoing hardships that have been triggered by this pandemic. Grief is a global and common experience for everyone right now. Grief has many different forms: struggling with the illness or death of a loved one, being separated from family, loss of what the spring/summer was supposed to hold, and even a sense of loss of a safe, predictable world. As a society, we are collectively experiencing the discomforts of vulnerability. However, as we become more comfortable navigating these hardships, we can move beyond fear and grief, and find healthy ways to cope, grow and thrive in ways we couldn’t have imagined.
Thankfully, counseling lends itself well to telehealth, and most insurance policies are covering teletherapy during the Covid-19 crisis. For some, short-term counseling can help to process loss/grief and immediate emotional distress. For others, this current crisis has exacerbated some underlying issues which counseling can also help to improve. The good news is that our human spirit is resourceful and resilient. We each have a deep capacity to nurture kindness, compassion and grow in amazing new ways.
Some experts are saying that mental health issues and traumatic responses will be the second big wave of issues resulting from this pandemic. We encourage you, your family, friends and loved ones to be proactive in seeking support. Be generous with listening, reassurance and comfort. Know that it is okay to share vulnerable feelings and fears. Holding space for each other’s real feelings is powerful medicine, the same way as caregiving to someone who is physically sick. And, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support – your mental health is essential! Connect with us through our website www.beverlytherapists.com, or call us directly at 773–310–3488. We are here to support you.
Learn more about the author of this post: Lisa Catania, MSW, LCSW