It is week 2 (or is it week 3) of the COVID-19 “panic-demic” and the mandatory stay at home order for Californians. As I sit and meditate on all that is occuring, focusing my attention on God and his heart for the suffering people, I wonder how this virus will affect the mental health of the nation and the world.
An article in the Atlantic, by science writer Ed Yong, gives a very realistic scenario of this outcome: “After infections begin ebbing, a secondary pandemic of mental-health problems will follow. At a moment of profound dread and uncertainty, people are being cut off from soothing human contact. Hugs, handshakes, and other social rituals are now tinged with danger. People with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder are struggling. Elderly people, who are already excluded from much of public life, are being asked to distance themselves even further, deepening their loneliness. Asian people are suffering racist insults, fueled by a president who insists on labeling the new coronavirus the “Chinese virus.” Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse are likely to spike as people are forced to stay in unsafe homes. Children, whose bodies are mostly spared by the virus, may endure mental trauma that stays with them into adulthood.” (Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/how-will-coronavirus-end/608719/)
The news isn’t all gloom and doom fortunately. Crisis can move into productive change too. The article in the Atlantic goes on to assert: “Pandemics can also catalyze social change. People, businesses, and institutions have been remarkably quick to adopt or call for practices that they might once have dragged their heels on, including working from home, conference-calling to accommodate people with disabilities, proper sick leave, and flexible child-care arrangements.”
It isn’t my desire to instill fear by this article. It is a wakeup call to better mental health practices in our country. In fact, my mediation this morning is all about how to reduce fear:
say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”
Isaiah 35:4 (NIV)
In order to manage this fear we need to increase our focus on mental health, reduce stigma, and provide practical tools to help children and adults cope. We need to relax mental health regulations that restrict mental health services and create new models for treatment. In part this has already occurred, with governing agencies allowing therapists to use a variety of online options to provide on-going support and insurance companies, previously resistant to reimbursing telehealth are now willing to pay for services.
Personally, I am working with churches, schools, and non-profit organizations to create anxiety reducing webinars, providing encouraging messages to build family strength, and deal with mental health concerns. It feels like we are all scrambling to respond, and even though clumsy, I feel a connectedness of hearts that warms the cold chill of fear.
Families can use our free membership group, full of resources on parenting, anxiety, and trauma to help them during this time. Just go to http://FamilyHealer.tv