COVID-19 has brought difficulty to everyone. We are months in and still facing worldwide pandemic and economic struggle, while also struggling to adjust to new norms in our community and circles, within our homes, and with ourselves. Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, a professor of law and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, recently said in an article for The Atlantic that “pandemic decision making implicates at least two complex cognitive tasks: moral reasoning and risk evaluation.” At the same time, we are experiencing heightened anxiety, trauma, isolation, and depression.
We are collectively experiencing extended trauma, the impacts of which we are just beginning to understand globally. Vague direction on best response to the pandemic, paired with ambivalent behavior norms, have led to poor risk assessment, flawed thinking, and confusion within our communities. This is not our fault, yet we are the ones shouldering the consequences.
Our country and communities have seen an increase in mental health issues because of the pandemic. Social isolation is high. Fear is a norm. Anger is growing. Grief is inevitable. Economic needs are surfacing to challenge our desire to keep our loved ones safe. Suicide rates related to the pandemic have been largely overshadowed by the number of deaths from COVID-19 itself. Suffice to say, we are struggling. Front-line workers are struggling. People waiting for test results are struggling. People who have been financially impacted are struggling. People of Color and marginalized groups are struggling. The mental health impact is expected to extend beyond the impact of COVID-19 itself.
So, the question becomes: how can we be expected to be okay? How can we be expected to face this alone? My answer is that we cannot. We should not be expected to be okay and deal on our own. The belief in ‘every person for themselves’ is a fallacy. We need our tribe, our community, our social groups. We need support.
I will personally share for a moment. I have been lucky enough to have a good support system and the ability to continue to work primarily from a distance. That said, I recently struggled with the decision to go back to in-person sessions part-time for my clients. I can speak firsthand to the difficult position this pandemic has put people in. As a mental health provider, I do my best to prioritize the wellness of my clients and their families. They need support now. Some need it more now than ever before. I also have to balance that with the safety risk of working outside the home while caregiving for vulnerable parents. I am grateful to have had the support necessary to work through my decision and think about my options from all angles to come to a workable solution. However, this isn’t a luxury allotted to many people. While I struggled with my choice, many don’t have a choice.
That is why Lycan Counseling and New Dawn Counseling are partnering to address this need in our community. We are providing a FREE support group series over Zoom called Embracing Empathy. These are not specifically therapy groups, but rather a safe space for people to come to share experiences, feelings, struggles, successes, and time with each other. Connection right now is important. There will be two groups as follows:
Tuesday mornings @ 10 a.m. (this group is for anyone ages 18+)
Monday nights @ 7 p.m. (this group is for anyone ages 18+)
These will be ongoing meetings, so don’t worry if you can’t make it every week.
Registration is required for the meetings over Zoom. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting the links to register or join a meeting, and let me know which meeting you would be interested in attending.
Dr. Brene Brown, a social worker and leading researcher in shame and vulnerability (two big hitters when it comes to anxiety and depression), reminds us in her podcast Unlocking Us that the road to empathy begins with vulnerability. When we share an experience together, we embrace our experience with that of others and work together to create shared meaning. So, despite this crisis, there is hope to offer. Shared support has historically reduced suicide rates following national crises. As Dr. Brown says, “what makes something better is connection.” I believe that we can work together to prevent unnecessary deaths, support the needs of our community, and strive for a better future. All we have to do is reach out and embrace empathy.