It’s difficult to comprehend COVID-19 struck at the heart of life as we knew it in March 2020.
Over a year later, people around the world are still finding ways to effectively deal with its many challenges and ramifications.
Businesses destroyed, families disconnected and shattered, depression creeping in inconspicuously like a quiet, thick fog.
While the news and media spend most of their time obsessing over case numbers and fatalities, a more silent and just as deadly plague has taken hold of much of our lives.
Depression and anxiety lead to suicide, something which is a major issue in
the United States and around the globe even when we aren’t living through an interminable pandemic.
Unemployment is enough to make anyone sad, now add an unexpected death in the family, a diagnosis of cancer, a drug overdose and other mental illnesses caused by the isolation of state and nationwide lockdown protocols.
Blame who you want for these problems, that is not the point of this article.
COVID-19 has exposed an issue this nation has faced for decades: the lack of attention and treatment in the field of mental health.
Our health triangle is composed of
physical, mental and social health.
Each one affects the other two to a great
degree, and you cannot be considered a truly healthy individual if all three are not in good condition.
When COVID-19 hit, we quickly said goodbye to our social health.
This in turn had a severe impact on the other two thirds of our health triangle.
Throughout this pandemic I have learned that staying connected with people through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Zoom, iMessage or even phone calls and FaceTime were not adequate substitutes for the innate human need for person-to- person interaction.
Hugging and shaking hands basically became outlawed and family members grieving the loss of a family member had to simply not hold a funeral or agree to not comfort one another physically while in attendance.
The media is not helping the situation, either.
Fear-mongering articles from various sources lead readers to fear with intimidating and depressing titles such
as “Stop hoping COVID-19 will go away soon,” “The vaccine won’t be enough to stop COVID,” and “COVID-19 will be with us forever, so get used to a permanent new normal.”
These articles, while incredibly pessimistic and oftentimes not based in reality, instill fear in people. Those who are already suffering from severe anxiety find their blood pressure going off the charts and their feelings of hopelessness skyrocketing.
The news is as addictive as a cigarette to the smoker and booze to the alcoholic.
We find ourselves absorbed in it even when we know it’s not making us feel any better.
What is the United States’ response to the mental health crisis it has created? Silence and indifference.
Few politicians and doctors get time in the spotlight of media attention to address their concerns for mental health issues facing many otherwise healthy Americans.
The “experts” spend every ounce of energy in their bodies scrutinizing case numbers and promoting lockdowns in the name of public safety.
They aren’t recognizing that public safety goes far beyond simply keeping citizens safe from contracting the coronavirus.
While I assuredly agree it is crucial that we protect citizens from the virus and keep people as safe as possible physically.
We need to allocate more time and pay more attention to the crisis that is mental health during the pandemic.
I know firsthand the ramifications of COVID-19 isolation. The claims that it’s all in your head are out of date.
Mental illness manifests itself in creative ways that often prevent you from ever feeling “good” in general.
There’s always something gnawing at you, and it can cause constipation, diarrhea, nausea, insomnia, restlessness, extreme fatigue, excessive worrying, muscle pain, fever, night sweats, vomiting ,nightmares, teeth grinding, loss of appetite.
Does this sound like an issue that’s “all in your head”?
While acknowledging the physical manifestation of mental health issues, there is also the issue of living through the pain and waiting for an appointment you couldn’t get scheduled for a month and a half.
If someone breaks their arm at work, they are rushed to the hospital immediately.
If someone is suffering from something like bipolar disorder, they are told that
a doctor can see them by the end of next month due to overbooked appointments, but don’t worry, you’ll be on a wait list in case there’s a cancellation.
Patients with serious mental illnesses and suicidal thoughts and/or actions, which have seen exponential increases since March 2020, are often told to “hang in there” over
a socially distanced CDC approved phone call appointment.
The psychiatrist doubles or changes the medication they’re on and that’s about it. The medication guess and check game
begins. It’s an interminable struggle that affects not only the patient, but the family they live with as well.
COVID-19 exposed a mental health crisis in the United States. It’s going to take a change in our outlook on mental health issues. We also need to make a change in the way mental health is treated to create a healthier world for all Americans.
Mental health issues, just like COVID-19, are a public safety and health threat that deserve just as much attention and care.