I visit very little with the parents of PhMS these days. As the parents arrive to bring their little ones to school, standing 6 feet apart, shouting through our masks is not conducive to the peaceful greetings and COVID symptom checks that Madi must accomplish with each incoming child. Therefore, I have had very few "deep and meaningfuls" with parents outside of parent-teacher conference confessions. Fortunately, through this blog, I have a forum in which I can connect with you. Did you know that there is a "comment" button at the end of each blog post here? There is! And it is almost never used. Let's see if it works, hmm? You can answer back!
As I see it, we are about 3/4 of the way through this marathon of social distancing. I believe that by the end of the summer, we should all be vaccinated, God willing and the creek don't rise. Don't mark that on your calendar as that is just my most optimistic, lay-person's guess. That means that there is still a long way to go before we reach our new "normal," which, I anticipate, will involve yearly COVID booster shots. In the meantime, I myself have come to have a better understanding of just how much people's mental health is declining during this period of isolation. As an introvert myself, I have taken the lack of socializing pretty well in stride, but I also have the in-person contact with my beloved colleagues and students, my weekly work with the animals and a few humans at Safehaven Humane Society and walking dates with my friend, neighbor and PhMS board member, Kathleen. Many others in my circle are greatly on their own and it is taking a toll. I am starting to understand the emotional desperation, not just the financial, that is leading people to defy recommended and mandated practices.
Depression, often unrecognized, is widespread. Unaddressed, it leaches out into the few remaining relationships that are still on-going, damaging the connections between friends and family members. I see this happening around me and I think that if my peers are suffering, with all our years of practice in self-reflection and adaptation coupled with the resilience of our relative youth, how much more terribly might some of our children and our elders be struggling. For the very young and very old, the situation must feel much bleaker. We have all heard about how school-age children are experiencing depression, even suicidal thoughts. I think I am only now just really letting this sink in. I hope and pray these kids can hang on for the rest of this unpredictable school year.
For all of those around us, regardless of age, let us be attentive. Let's bring up the subject. "Do you think you might be suffering from some depression due to all this isolation? It's not a natural way for humans to live, you know" might be a way to bring up the subject with a loved one. A telemedicine visit with one's primary care provider could be a great first step to finding the help and support needed. Many of us have Employee Assistance Plans that provide us with access to mental health professionals. There are several online mental health organizations that provide a tele-appointment with professionals in as little as 48 hours from the time of contact. Meanwhile, physical exercise, time spent outdoors, regular hours for sleeping, a healthy diet , consistent routines and expectations and purposeful activity are wonderful modulators of mood. Doing things for others brings joy. I got a great boost from making Valentines for nursing home residents, friends and family and my students. (Please don't tell. It's a surprise.)
I reach out to you with love. If you are having a "hard time" (which is how some of my students express being down in the dumps,) I am holding you in my heart. Please don't suffer in silence yourself and extend yourself to those who may need you. If you feel moved to do so, hit that "Comment" button and let us know how you are doing. You can keep it anonymous, if you wish. Let's keep up the good work necessary to defeat this virus and then, we can get back to our hugs!
Wishing you all the best,