Pandemic of Mental Distress
We are all too familiar with the knowledge of what are the symptoms of the global pandemic knowns as Covid-19, or the Corona, and we are all too familiar with the measures that were implemented by national governments and advised by international bodies in order to mitigate the spread of the contagion; lockdowns, quarantines, masks, sanitation, social distancing, promotion of distance smartwork etc.
There is one element that e are starting to come to terms with these days, the aftermath of these necessary and lifesaving measures on our minds, and the reason why mental health experts and support professionals are now, and in the coming months and not years essential workers to re-harmonising individuals and communities impacted by the measures.
It is undeniable that this has impacted everybody’s mental health to a certain extent, in a time in human history where depression, anxiety, stress and other ailments and disorders are starting to affect humanity on an unprecedented scale according to pre-pandemic data, and now worsened.
Fear : Death and sickness are indeed an unavoidable part of life and everyone is aware of it, this awareness of one’s own frailty and temporary presence on this planet has been amplified as this relatively unknown virus with a behaviour incomprehensible to most has made its way through every corner of the world. The natural fear of death and sickness has amplified, dreading a positive test, and wondering how heavy and deadly it might be. Creating greater insecurity towards the future and uncertainties, shaking the very fundamentals of identity and purpose. Moreover, the isolation and solitude falling ill does
Isolation and Loneliness : Social distancing, limits in interaction with loved and cared ones, lacking social opportunities, partly replaced by an artificial online world, creates a sense of disconnection from the rest of the people in this world, online personas only go so far as in replacing that social need, demanding to gain skills of self-reliance and self-support which for some can’t be learnt easily, as human interaction is unlearnt and individuals become cocooned in their own world, homes and rooms as the new reality.
Depression : People who already were on the brink of depression in pre-covid times, or categories at risk, mostly fell into this mental plague of this century, as thoughts become more fatigued, motivation and strength of will drops dramatically, and the person becomes sucked into a vortex of negativity, while being alone, socially distanced from support and entering habits of isolation.
Anxiety : How long will the pandemic last? Will vaccines work? How many waves will their be? Will the virus mutate and become more deadly? What are the long term effects? And more such questions which cast a shadow onto future visions generates anxiety, just as meeting fellow humans on the streets masked and suspiciously looking at each other, the relief of getting home and removing the mask, the smell of sanitation, sleep becomes irregular, restlessness, unexplainable tiredness and lack of motivation, problems with concentration, faster heartbeats and a general feeling of hopelessness, all increased and amplified in many people.
Stress : Time is one of the most precious things we possess, and having time to simply wait for the situation to get better, while academic and professional goals and needs are at risk, along with the economic uncertainty of collapsing employment opportunities and wealth, as companies go bankrupt, close down, and economic disparity affects pupils and students attending distance learning, having family members, colleagues, neighbours falling ill and realising being at risk, all of this generate major stressors that heavily impact the mind, thoughts start racing, worries are amplified, decision-making becomes a hard task, feeling unmotivated and unfocused, anger and restlessness, have all increased.
Burnout : Regardless of the pandemic, and in distance/online mode, one still needs to study or work, and what many imagined as luxury to work/study from home in comfortable slippers and mug of tea, turned out to speed up the productive processes, as the social interactions have been reduced to a minimum and all the work has turned out to be task/goal oriented, and chances to share and experience the process with fellow students or co-workers, grabbing that coffee break, go for a drink after working hours is gone, replaced by online processes and meetings which have intensified, unclear working hours (often increasing) and hardly no sociability.
The above is just to mention a few, and comes from observing family, community and friends around and not from a clinical background. Worrying data out there is that nobody is exempt, Though it was particularly striking to see the impact on youth, what is considered to be the safest category from the pandemic; increase of self-harm, increased suicide attempts, and all of the above, because this is not the age for isolation and loneliness, it is the age of first kisses, fights, bonding with friends, experiencing, doing stupid and smart stuff and the opportunities for all of that is simply gone.
However it is not all doom and gloom, this is the situation and we know it, and we are equipped and have the competences to deal with it, bring resilience and healing through our professions such as therapists, counsellors, psychologists, coaches, trainers etc. Simply we need to develop a more ecopsychological approach, that means to balance the services and support offered to the affected people in dealing with all of the above at intrapersonal level, and bring about an interpersonal one, focusing on healthy relationships which will build/rebuild communities and connections, care, support, love as a way to cure not just the symptoms above, but especially their root cause. Community building and resilience and on the other hand re-establish a connection to the natural more-than-human world, as it has been empirically demonstrated that nature is a restorative environment which impacts the psyche rebalancing and reducing stressors, and this latter part can also be easily done when times demand social distancing, by balancing it with natural vicinity.