I am neither a fear-monger nor a conspiracy-theorist, I am rather quite the optimist, yet I predict a second wave of the Corona pandemic. COVID-20, if you like, will be a psychological crisis.
My move to “sound the alarm” is based on detecting lots of smoke, not only within my own practice and the sharp increase in the rates of anxiety, fear, depression, despair, anger, grief, substance use, family discord, child abuse, domestic violence, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors that I see in my patients, but also in the amount of restless energy I feel within my small community, the general public, and the whole nation.
Trauma is a complicating factor here, especially if the crisis continues to drag on with no end in sight. Dealing with protracted traumatic stress paired with the sense of uncertainty about the virus, jobs, schools, and what life and the “new norm” might look like as well as buying into the worst-case narrative depicted by the media, politicians, and “experts” could cast a heavy shadow on the long-term outcome. Trauma forces people into narrow corners of regression and dysfunction, some might shut down while others lash out. However, trauma is a communal affair, and we can and should go through it together, leaning on one another for support rather than judgment, hostility, and “othering.” As healers, we can normalize feelings and channel unhealthy coping: people can be sad but shouldn’t hurt themselves, they can be mad but shouldn’t hurt others.
Following are 19 ways I think, and hope, that if implemented might help us, psychiatrists, mitigate the current situation, then I boldly add a final theme as my conclusion.
1. Taking the necessary precautions and adhering to the official safety protocols
2. Reconnecting to oneself and our own version of a high power
3. Reconnecting with family and loved ones
4. Checking up on neighbors
5. Looking after those otherwise forgotten
6. Clear communication through large-scale education campaigns, both online and offline
7. Supporting people on the frontlines
8. Brainstorming short and long-term solutions, especially for basic needs in the here and now
9. Paying special attention to the vulnerable
10. Advocating for calmness and spreading the message of hope
11. Focusing on unity and community service
12. Finding opportunities in during these challenging times
13. Being part of the solution, not the problem
14. Focusing on emotional and spiritual needs that are commonly forgotten
15. Encouraging sharing, rather than hoarding resources and essential items
16. Collaborating rather than competing
17. Using all available resources for healing
18. Focusing heavily on the children and creating healthy and attractive ways for them to unwind
19. Paying extra attention to self-care
Humanity, you don’t have to be a therapist to be therapeutic, serve wherever you are needed!
Dr Reda is a Practicing Psychiatrist, Providence Healthcare System, Portland, OR. He reports no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.