Since the start of the COVID-19 saga back about a year ago, one of the first things this writer identified was the fact that our society was about to take a massive hit on its mental health.
In an article written in March of 2020, this writer started highlighting the issue of mental health during the initial shutdown, noting
[T]he fact that this situation is as much a mental issue as much as it is a physical health issue. With the way this “episode” is developing, there are a lot of naturally sure-footed people that are all of a sudden not sure which way is “up”. The overwhelming amount of news, information, and the speculation behind all of it, is putting a strain on even the most even-keeled of people.Politics Hawaii, Stan Fichtman, March 2020
It seems that since these words were written, nothing has changed, This dawned on me on February 12, when an article, written by Kristen Consillio in the Star-Advertiser, said that the pandemic is mentally hurting a large swath of the Hawai‘i population.
Another piece that came out days later, from Pacific Business News, highlighted that in Nevada, they had to open the schools again for teenagers to attend. This was because student suicides had doubled in one year, thanks to the knee-jerk shut down and instant isolation that was placed on everyone due to the pandemic.
Again, from the start, it was noted that a mental health crisis could surely emerge from all this. The fact that nothing has been done except for creating hotlines and trying to get people to open up seems woefully unsatisfactory to the magnitude of the problem.
With the pandemic and associated actions stretching into 2021, things don’t look like they will change for the better, mental health-wise. Most recently, KFF came out with an article highlighting the increased prevalence of substance abuse, depression, and suicide.
What gets this writer, is the fact that a lot of people could see the ramifications of the societal actions at the start, and don’t have any plan to address it in the long term.
Let’s be clear here, ignoring mental health for those who will be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, lifelong depression, or even more serious mental illness, comes with some pretty dire consequences.
We saw what happened when mental health was not addressed to Vietnam War Veterans after their return. It had to be highlighted in movies about it for anyone to pay attention to it. We have done better with our Veterans from the various Arabian Wars.
But the numbers that we may face from those affected by the COVID saga may be way way more than what we have faced before. And as we continue to plod along, provide no defined light at the end of the tunnel, or provide any hope to those who lost everything, the counts of those who will become mentally ill overall this will continue to rise, one person at a time.