I sit in my car, with my cellphone at a terrible angle resting on the steering wheel which is giving me three chins, as my therapist and life coach stares back at me from the screen. I can see my husband and daughter peer through the window at me through the corner of my eye, because if I move even the slightest, the Wi-Fi signal may lose connectivity. I immediately begin to question, is this real life?
We get the usual small talk out of the way, check on each other’s well-being and discuss a few issues that many people are going through right now: Two full-time working parents getting on each other’s nerves, a child at home who is bored and hungry, and no guarantee of when it will end! Personally, I think I am doing OK and am more fortunate than many. I’m still taking violin lessons (albeit virtually) and have a job. However, my doctor expresses a more concerned outlook for my welfare and many of his patients.
A recently published report from the Mental Health America organization titled “The State of Mental Health in America” paints a concerning picture of, well, the state of mental health prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Adult prevalence of mental health was flat. However, thoughts of suicide had increased. Over 10.3 million adults have serious thoughts of suicide in the U.S. This is terrifying to me, as I think of my loved ones, friends and colleagues who may be silently suffering. Due to social distancing to save the lives of the elderly and immunocompromised, they also become at-risk from lack of connection. Fear can be crippling; solitude can enhance the panic and anxiety. It creates a space for self-inflicting damage, both physical and emotional.
Over the last two weeks, my doctor explained that half of his patients cancelled their therapy sessions.
The excuses ranged from not being able to figure out the technology needed for a virtual meeting, they have too many other things to focus on, or they can’t get away from their kids and spouses. After hearing this, I decided to increase from my monthly sessions to weekly appointments. Sure, it’s not the same as going to an office far removed from the noise and familiarity of things that can serve as triggers. However, having that person to talk to through such an uncertain time and keeping the focus on you and the way things used to be keeps everything in perspective. Mental health professionals are more than essential during this time. We must encourage the people in our lives to seek professional help if they are showing signs of depression, anxiety or other ailments.
I wish you all the strength and power to get through this. Talk openly about your feelings and don’t forget to take care of entire body, not just by washing your hands!