As we all ‘hunker down’ and shelter in place, one of the casualties of this war on COVID-19 will, undoubtedly, be some of our collective sense of wellbeing. Human beings are social animals, and that is why social distancing is not only hard to do but why it takes a toll on those trying to do it. Mental health is affected by isolation, so shelter-in-place orders – while necessary – may be mentally difficult for us to pull off for a long period of time.
One of the more interesting articles I’ve read in recent days was the spike in China of people suffering from agoraphobia (fear of the outside/ public spaces) when the restriction orders were lifted in the Wuhan province. Who knew? But we should anticipate unexpected consequences like this here.
Impacts and Associated Risks
It is hard to know, right now, how long restrictions will stay in place in Colorado, but it does seem likely that even when they begin to lift, some people – such as those at risk because of age, preexisting health conditions/ compromised immunity – may have to stay isolated even after the first wave of impact recedes.
Many people are being laid off and even those who retain their jobs live in the fear that they may not keep them for the duration of the crisis.
We will also be facing the illnesses and potential deaths of friends and family. These are uncertain times; if you are anxious right now, you are in the majority.
One of the great risks to sheltering-in-place is the fact that many mental health issues are created by (and certainly exacerbated by) isolation and fear. Some people will experience not just anxiety, but crippling anxiety. Isolation may cause depression. And for children, who don’t understand and are being cared for by fearful parents, the problems can be worse because they have that much less control than do their parents.
Of special concern are those who are already in problematic relationships. Examples of that are people who are in the middle of a divorce or, worse, those living with a partner who has been violent in the past. And this is a double whammy because not only will stress lead to more abuse, but we have already seen a huge decline in child abuse reports because children are no longer regularly being seen by teachers, babysitters, doctors, and other mandatory child abuse reporters.
Adapting How We Communicate
But all is not lost, because what is also emerging in this time of crisis are people who are finding (as human beings always do) ways to mitigate the darkness. Online communities are forming, formerly bickering spouses are finding common ground in protecting their children, and many, many professionals are adapting their practices to serve the changing needs of our community.
This is particularly true in mental health which has seen an explosion of practitioners who are offering “tele” health. This requires a party to only have a device such as a cell phone or a computer that has audio and video capabilities. And while most of us may do better in person, there are many advantages to telehealth such as scheduling which is easier if you don’t have to worry about traffic, and whose availability is much more flexible.
Speak With an Expert
So, if you find yourself in need of a therapist or a child therapist, we’ve solicited from those therapists we know best, a list of people who are available to provide therapy online*.
*This list will be updated as necessary.