The previous post ended with the sorrow of grown children unable to visit their father one last time, not because he himself had COVID-19, but because the contagious disease forced the hospital to curtail all visiting, for the greater good of everyone. Because of the virus, many a child has found a mother or father suddenly missing from their life without any opportunity for goodbye.
These are knock-on effects of the pandemic, truly disturbing side effects that darken the lives even of people who never caught the virus. A certain number of those people respond by developing mental/emotional illnesses, and a certain number of those people express that malaise by developing habits that facilitate obesity.
The Kaiser Family Foundation polled Americans — not just those with coronavirus, but people of all kinds, and found that:
Four in ten say such worry or stress has led to problems with their sleep, while one-third say they either have had a poor appetite or have been over-eating. Some also say worry or stress related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused […] increasing their alcohol or drug use (13%). About one in ten (9%) say coronavirus-related stress has led to worsening chronic health conditions.
When disrupted sleep patterns have people up in the middle of the night contemplating a bleak future, some of them seek comfort in food. Alcohol and drug use can lead to loss of self-control, and increased recreational eating.
That poll was from back in April, and since then, circumstances have only gotten worse. Among people stuck at home all the time, women are unable to escape from abusive husbands, and children have no recourse but to stay with abusive parents, day in and day out.
The families of health workers are under constant, unremitting stress. Health professionals are under enormous stress, to the point where there have been suicides. People like Megan Reeves go on social media to point out that nurses are necessarily assigned towards where they don’t have the training. They have too many patients on one shift, and not enough personal protective equipment.
It is especially devastating, psychologically, because they know they could be doing a lot better with the right equipment and more of it. They feel drained and defeated before the workday even starts. When they have to hold a phone or an electronic tablet so a dying patient can say last words to family members, nurses are psychologically gutted.
We aint’ seen nothin’ yet
Since, as journalist Jacob Stern points out, “psychological disorders can be slow to develop,” and since in the United States the virus is worse than it has ever been, no one should be surprised to see more and more mental and emotional health issues arise in the coming months. Including eating disorders.
Stern enumerates the five core elements of the intervention, according to disaster mental-health experts: calming, self-efficacy, connectedness, hope, and a sense of safety. All this is educational and interesting to know, but he goes on to say,
In disaster situations — and especially in this one — the people in need of mental-health support vastly outnumber the people who can supply it. So disaster psychologists train armies of volunteers to provide basic support and identify people at greater risk of developing long-term problems.
Let’s hope so.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “KFF Health Tracking Poll — Late April 2020: Coronavirus, Social Distancing, and Contact Tracing,” KFF.org, 04/24/20
Source: “This Is Not a Normal Mental-Health Disaster,” TheAtlantic.com, 07/07/20
Image by Navy Medicine/Public Domain