Become the Helper

mental health

An oft overlooked aspect of our current times is the psychological destruction that is infecting minds as silently as the coronavirus enters our bodies and makes us sick. There is so much happening all at once and the fact that we cannot seem to agree on much of anything only compounds the difficulties of dealing with the anxieties that are plunging many individuals into a state of distress. Any one of the issues that have come to the fore would have been cause for concern. When all of them are blasting our society at once it is akin to a violent storm, an earthquake and a tornado all happening at the same instant. Little wonder that my friends who are counselors are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the stories of patients who are struggling to maintain a sense of balance and safety.

At the same time there are those lucky individuals who appear not to have been affected by anything that is happening. They have retained their jobs and their fine incomes. Nobody in their circle has become ill with the virus. They have few interactions with minorities so they do not feel the urgency of the Black Lives Movement or DACA. They do not have an elderly parent, relative or friend in a nursing home whom they are not allowed to visit. They have not seen how a preponderance of bad luck can lead to depression, addiction, despair. The people in their world are happy and eager to get back to vacations and all the rituals of summer. They are blessed and enjoy the bounty of their good fortune.They post images of themselves having a good time as though life is as wonderful and normal as ever. They are generally good people who simply do not know how much suffering the pandemic has created because it seems to have little to do with the worlds in which they live.

In truth there are many layers associated with the mental health issues that are making a difficult time even worse for those who are struggling to maintain a grip on hopefulness. There are people who lost their jobs in early March who are panicking because their searches for work have been fruitless. In the beginning they felt confident that the unemployment help from the government along with assistance from in the form of temporary loan forgiveness would carry them through until they most surely would return to their careers, but as the weeks and months have gone by far too many are still unemployed. They see the patience of the nation dwindling for their cause. They have calculated that they are on the verge of destitution and perhaps even homelessness if nothing changes within the next few weeks. Even though they have always been hard working and reliable they are questioning their own worth. They feel abandoned, alone. They are losing the confidence that was once their trademark.

There are elderly individuals who have been sequestered inside their homes for so long that loneliness has overtaken them. They feel forgotten. Worse yet when even the political leaders who should be encouraging them suggest that they are on their own with regard to staying safe from the virus they worry that they will be confined to a kind of homebound imprisonment for an undetermined time. Because they understand that the number of years they have left on this earth are dwindling with each passing month they worry that their final moments will be lonely and secluded from the joy of human contact.

There are those already burdened by mental illness or addiction. They have had to get their therapies remotely. Somehow the positive effects of talking with a caring professional has not the same under such circumstances. Their days have come to feel bleaker and bleaker and their minds play all of the psychological tricks on them that create the kind of chemical imbalances in their brains that cloud their thinking. At times life seems almost unbearable and sometimes they even act on such thoughts.

The problems of our Black citizens have taken center stage but even as they voice the concerns that have stalked them unrelentingly they see that far too many refuse to listen or understand. They wonder why it is so difficult for people to comprehend what they are trying to say. They relate the stories of their lives with honesty and then are accused of overreacting, expecting too much. They see people wanting to wish them away, hoping to sweep their cause under the rug. They wonder how many more years they will have to pay for the sins of slavery, because it is they who have paid the price of a heinous practice that is somehow defended year after unchanging year.

A toxic political climate fueled by those seeking power has divided us so badly that even friends and relatives who love one another are on edge. They choose up sides and steadfastly retain their own beliefs even when evidence suggests that they may be wrong. In many ways we are all being played and we somehow know it but nonetheless deny that we are affected. It grinds away at our sense of security. We question ourselves and each other. Some among are reduced to abject sorrow.

We have drawn back a curtain that has shown us an ugly side of our natures, an aspect that we had managed to mostly ignore before the stakes became so high. While we are grappling with our personal difficulties and with each other we sense that somehow it did not need to be this way. We might have all been feeling confident that together we would solve all of the problems that face us. Instead it feels as though we are engaged in battles on multiple fronts all alone. It is every human for himself/herself and so the numbers suffering from psychological disorders are growing, leaving a toll that is as distressing as Covid-19 and the battles for equity.

It is time we each took a deep breath and eliminated our tone deaf tendencies. People are dying of broken hearts and minds. We need to step back and assess the damage that has been done to them and then begin the process of working together to set things right. Look around you. Find the suffering and become the helper that they need. 

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