Our world has changed in what feels like a split second. We have all faced the profound fallout of COVID-19, in our communities and in the world at large. Each day we are faced with loss of human life, economic security, and the rituals that get us through life, like graduations, weddings, and funerals.
Many of us are all too aware that the accompanying grief, isolation, and fear will result in widespread psychological trauma. The Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a Texas nonprofit, has predicted that if unemployment rises to a level similar to the Great Recession an additional 4,000 people could die of suicide and an additional 4,800 from drug overdoses. Furthermore, if unemployment rises to the levels recorded during the 1930s Great Depression, suicides could increase by 18,000 and overdose deaths by more than 22,000.
You might wonder: how do I have hope as we face all of this heartache?
I have hope because everyday I see how kindness and compassion can help us. As a mental health provider I have had the gift of witnessing clients, most of whom struggle with substance use and/or trauma, use this period of time to grow and adapt.
While there are indications that the number of people struggling with substance use disorders will increase due to the stress of the pandemic, I have marveled at what some of my clients have done during this time. Many have used the lockdown as their own private rehab and used the time away from external triggers, like having to navigate whether or not to get drinks after work, to deepen their connection to recovery and self-reflection.
Other clients have used the time to reflect on their values and are finding ways to live those values day to day as they help their friends and family members get through these difficult times. Parents are spending more time with their kids, finding great joy in it, and realizing that dinner at home with their family is better than a night out entertaining work clients using substances.
I have hope because everyday I have seen the kindness and compassion in the medical and mental health providers working tirelessly to care for those being impacted by COVID-19. The bravery, sacrifice, and skill of the medical community is obvious and we all forever owe them a debt of gratitude. In the months and years to come, they will need our support as they experience the emotional fallout of taking this all on so directly. In the meantime, the food being delivered, the free supports being offered, and the nightly cheering at 7pm all reflect how we can support each other during an extended crisis.
Treatment programs have hustled to embrace safety protocols that keep their staff and clients safe as they provide essential services, and the number of free virtual support groups and webinars that mental health professionals of all types have put out is pretty amazing. As mental health providers, we will be on the front lines as the true depth of our collective trauma starts to show itself in the coming months. I have no doubt that we will support each other in facing it.
I have hope because every day I see family members and friends trying to help a loved one struggling with substance use or mental health issues. Many have faced separation from people they are concerned about, and others have had to be in lockdown with someone they are worried for.
I have witnessed so many people reach out and ask for help in taking care of their loved ones and themselves. Their willingness to learn new skills, even though they are completely overwhelmed by what is happening in the world around them, is deeply inspiring.
So while there are many reasons to be heartbroken, I am incredibly lucky to be able to bear witness to all these human moments of connection and growth. I believe that with a deep commitment to our values and compassion, we will find ways to survive and thrive. If we all find ways to share why we have hope, it can create a foundation that we can build on as we face the continued impact of COVID-19 on our world.
I am also especially proud of CMC:Foundation for Change for putting together a new video series: Why I Have Hope. Each video explores how our community members spread hope while supporting change in the lives of their loved ones.
Please consider watching these videos and sharing them on social media. We want to spread these messages of hope far and wide! You can also share your story by sending in your own video or writing for our blog. We hope to hear from you soon.