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The impact of COVID-19 on our mental health
It has been more than six weeks since we started sheltering at home and maintaining our social distance.
At first it was a challenge for me, both professionally and personally.
How do we move an inherently social organization, with a 168-year history of working face-to-face with each other and with those we serve, to a remote workforce, distant not only from one another but from the children and families who need us?
Well, after a couple of weeks, most of the operational issues had been worked out. That was the easy part, as it turned out, and we have learned so much. There will be valuable lessons to take forward from this experience.
But the social challenges remain. How do we adjust to working from home? To homeschooling kids if we have them? How do we cope with loved ones who have lost jobs and the lack of access to things we always took for granted? How do we adapt to the isolation?
Personally, I am starting to wear down. I don’t do well with social isolation. I never have. It’s my own personal hell. Some days are better than others. I have new routines and that helps. Thankfully, I have a paycheck. I have enough food. I don’t have to worry about paying the bills or homeschooling kids while I am also trying to work. I have good coping skills, a strong support system and people I can turn to for help. In other words, I am luckier than a lot of people.
Like most people, I am adjusting to this new normal.
But there is another crisis looming. Many expect that the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will a mental health one, brought on by anxiety, stress, isolation, unemployment, and the breakdown of already strained relationships.
I am worried about that.
That second wave has already begun. We just can’t see it too well yet. That is a function of isolation. We can all pretend that we are doing great on social media or during that 30-minute phone call. But what about those times of high stress at home? What about the quiet times where you are alone with only your own thoughts and concerns for company?
I also worry because I know that home is not a safe place for many families who already suffer from domestic violence, child abuse and complex trauma, now intensified by the stress of this crisis. We know that we will be seeing the impact of this more acutely in the kids and families we serve - the most vulnerable – as we move forward.
What else do I worry about?
I worry that our kids and families are not getting enough food. Are their basic needs being met? How does this add to the traumas they have already suffered?
I wonder if there will be enough resources to deal with the volume of mental health and social issues we will face. What will we need to do differently? Where will the money come from to do these new things, if traditional sources do not cover these services?
I wish there were answers to these questions.
I worry about our staff, too. How will they fare as we move out of phase one? They also have been struggling to handle their personal challenges while continuing to serve our clients in a totally different way. And when we do move back toward normal, they are likely to come back to overwhelming need.
Unlike our health care professionals, you won’t see their faces on the news, in a hospital, exhausted, with lines on their face from the masks they have worn all day. Our staff members work alone. There is often no one to witness their exhaustion as they battle the second dangerous wave of this virus…the mental health crisis that endangers children and shatters families.
You will not hear about the children who were not taken from their families and placed in foster care…because we were able to preserve that family. You won’t see a news story about how we prevented a suicide and saved a life. But those stories will be real, and they will be happening every day, as we work to save families, save lives and save our community from the toll of this second wave. I hope we will remember to take a moment to think about these heroes…the ones most people will never see.
In the meantime, all of us should do whatever we can to stay strong, physically and emotionally. There are endless sources with tips about how to manage stress during this time: eating well, getting sufficient sleep, exercising, and practicing mindfulness and meditation. We should all be doing these things.
And if you or anyone you know is experiencing a heightened level of depression, anxiety, anger or hopelessness, take advantage of the many options available now for online therapy, telemedicine and virtual support groups. Talk with friends and family about your feelings; chances are they may be feeling the same way, too, from time to time.
Stay well. Keep in touch, and we will look forward to seeing you again sometime soon!Back to News
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