Isolation, sadness, depression, anxiety, despair, anger, boredom, agoraphobia, paranoia, thoughts of suicide, increased drinking or substance use: do any of these hit home for you or someone close to you? Whether you are five or 95, it is almost impossible to have avoided many of these feelings or behaviors over the past nine months. The COVID-19 pandemic has markedly increased emotional pain, loss of control and disconnection. The world has darkened and, for many of us, negative thoughts are often present. I am not talking only about those who have mental health histories—this is impacting ALL of us. Social distancing, wearing masks, stay-at-home orders, financial challenges, illness and loss of loved ones—these combine to create enormous stress in our world. We are in this pandemic boat together.
An August 14, 2020 report of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that symptoms of anxiety and depression increased considerably in the U.S. during April to June 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. The rates for some symptoms were three times as high as last year. We are struggling—not just with COVID but with the stress and mental health symptoms that accompany it and the exacerbation of physical ailments.
Human beings are social creatures. We gather, we celebrate, we play games and are spectators of games; we mourn; we visit family, the sick and the dying; we go to work and our children go to school. COVID-19 has denied us these opportunities to come together in “normal” ways—unless we want to risk our own and others’ wellbeing. As a psychotherapist for over 30 years, I find that my clients, as well as family, friends and acquaintances, feel terribly alone, not fully recognizing the universality of the pain that unites us. Even with pending vaccines, it will be months before we are back to something that resembles a “normal” throughout the world. However, I know that we are resilient beings who can survive terrible stress with the right supports.
It is critical that everyone gets that support during this time. We need to help each other get through this—and we will. Children, adolescents and seniors need particular attention as their suicide rates continue to rise. There are numerous options for help. The Suffield area has many mental health practitioners—both in private practice and within agencies—who can be found by contacting your physician, insurance company, 211, or the Suffield Community Aid (SCA). Most professionals do virtual visits, but some are doing in-home or in-office visits, socially distanced with masks. Don’t hesitate to get help—emergency if needed — for yourself or another if you are concerned. There are other places for support —religious, on-line groups, Suffield Youth Services, Senior Center and, again, SCA. Please, practice kindness, wave to passersby, walk, mediate or pray, read and reach out—ask for what you need. We will be okay.