Right before the last New Year, we did a video asking whether our New Year Eve glasses were half-full or help-empty (with champagne or whatever). By last year, COVID had been decreasing, apparently allowing some reasonable increase in live holiday get-togethers.
Half-empty referred to the variety of losses that had to do with grieving adequately in order to move forward in the best way possible. Half-full referred to the positive developments over the year of 2021, including Zoom connections over a distance. For children, the year seemed to be a plus and minus being home much more. I wondered and was concerned about the slow process of people getting whatever vaccine was available and masking enough.
For this year, the general reduction in losses over the year, especially COVID-related deaths, with an accompanied increase in live socialization, would probably elicit more people feeling that their glasses were half-full or more. For me personally, that would not be true, as I recently lost my best friend of 70 years, who is irreplaceable. Nobody knew me longer.
Additionally, other social psychiatric problems seem stagnant or escalated: anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, and other groups scapegoated.
Interestingly, more and more people we know have gotten COVID lately, but thankfully did not become severely ill. Even more recently, we have had what has been called a tripledemic of COVID, the flu, and RSV viral morbidity.
Putting this all together makes me feel that we are trying to convince ourselves as a society that things are better, and they are generally are to some extent in some places, but often acting like things are better than they really are medically and psychiatrically. We in psychiatry should be familiar with that defensive mechanism as the public and patients often deny the extent of their mental health problems because it threatens our sense of self and certainly. That may tend to make us feel a little less worried and to claim our glasses are more filled with champagne than they really are. But, then again, drinking too much champagne can help drown out some of the concerns for awhile.
Since so much of our current societal challenges are in our control and behavior, we have the opportunity to make 2023. Here’s a toast to that!
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.