Things have been hitting me in chunks. I have decades of defense mechanisms, being drowned out by coping strategies, still humming at increasing volume (like cicalas in the shrubs) until it all drops out and I have to focus only on what is in my bubble. Because the background noise is terrifying. It is this bitter cacophony of out of sync conductors and drunk choreographers echoing forward misstep by misstep as we watch our future played out unthinkable tragedy by catastrophic loss of humanity.
I want to reach my arms from Texan isolation to help scoop folks out of these indignities while also frantically waving at oblivious exceptionalists, shocked by the inaction. We are all somehow shuffling through a global trauma right now, and there are many different human responses to trauma or crisis. We are also still at a point (in the United States, at least) where some people can’t begin to move forward because they have not yet acknowledged the evidence of our current reality. There are a few types of psychological reactions to crisis that can lead to dangerous levels of denial. I think we’re seeing a lot of those, as well as people who aren’t being given data in a way that they can digest. When this starts to peak, I think it will be hardest on them. The whiplash is going to be dizzying; be kind. Anxiety is a normal and healthy response and I have been moved by how freely folks are sharing resources to protect each other’s mental health.
We don’t want each other to fall through the cracks.
That’s something I think we’re all going to need to cling to for quite a while. This is going to cause ENORMOUS fallout and drastic shifts in psychology and sociology on a *global level*. There are mass grievings of humans in multiple countries now, whose loved ones got sick, went to the hospital alone, died alone; those humans mourning in isolation, funeral services made impossible (an especially tragic experience for anyone whose cultural burial practices cannot be upheld). We will have many months of grief and mourning and we have to be prepared to help people truly mourn.
We have got to keep people feeling connected (and being connected) to each other.
I wonder what the data will show about the pandemic’s impact in so many areas of human existence: effects on people who had to go without physical intimacies like a hug for weeks or months, in what (expected and unexpected) ways will this affect the psychology and behavior of young humans at different stages of development. Most of these thoughts get placed neatly to the side because we can’t know until this is over and there is little to do now to significantly minimize that fallout.
But our citizen’s mental health throughout this crisis and rebuilding? That is something we can work to protect now, and we have to.
Will we keep fighting over the money and ignore that a significant portion of the population is in compounded mourning, many will develop PTSD even if they don’t directly experience a personally traumatic event, and nearly everyone is experiencing dangerous levels of stress and anxiety.
Our politicians, city officials, and news outlets need to be as direct as the data. The only thing to combat the panic right now is facts. Not half-truths that will let them down in a week and create greater distrust and increased helplessness.
Helplessness: Involve your communities in planning and developing solutions and ways to move forward through this. Give us the blunt truth, humility, compassion, a common goal and something actionable to help move forward.
We cannot cling to the idea of going back to a previous sense of “normal”. We all need to really digest that information and find constructive ways to build from where we are.
This isn’t a “starting over” though. It will hopefully move us forward further than our past trajectory would have. But it is so important that as many people as possible understand how broken things will get *before they break*. We need to acknowledge the trauma now.
Our reaction to trauma and crisis is not like other mental health issues. It is a physiological response and inherent to how our brains operate. The effects can be mediated through direct, accurate, and compassionate information, access to supports, and finding a way to involve entire communities in response and support (from home as well). If we all feel we are actively working towards the same goal and moving through this together; we will absolutely survive this. Our individual and societal health depends on giving its citizens purpose in the uncertainty and the tools to support themselves and others.
We *can* catch each other when we fall, instead of waiting until after the crash to collect the fallen.
It’s vital that individuals and communities have resources at hand during the breaking so they can avoid more turmoil in the midst of chaos.
If, somehow, you can’t relate and this all sounds like the wrong set of priorities to you: The country depends on a healthy economy and healthy workforce. Our workforce can only return to “health” if citizens have access to supports and can take care of themselves and their families. People can’t take care of themselves or their families if they are not dealing with the human response to trauma.