Mental health in a global pandemic
How is COVID19 is changing the way people manage their mental health?
Patients with limb loss are at higher risk for mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Managing mental health is tricky at best under normal circumstances, let alone the strange reality we are currently in. Patients who are recovering or have recently recovered from trauma may feel particularly robbed of a normal life that was almost within reach.
Family support, peer groups, and meaningful work have been recognized as critical sources of social support in coping with life after limb loss, all of which suffer gravely as we remain deep in a global pandemic. Many are beginning to question, what is the "new normal" for mental health management, and what are the consequences?
Support group meetings are migrating to video chat platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Skype, with Zoom practically rising to the top overnight. The decision to join a physical meeting is pronounced and deliberate, but what happens if attending is a matter of clicking a button? Does this devalue interactions and adversely affect attendance? Or does this minimize barriers that may have prevented patients from attending more meetings in the first place, like location inconveniences or issues with group fit?
I find such simplicity in dark times to be a recipe for steadfast support - from afar, of course. News outlets are exploding with acts of kindness, from strangers helping the elderly obtain food from crowded grocery stores to employers finding safe and creative ways to generate income for their employees (like this Baltimore restaurant's response).
Family support may come from conversing through a window or staying speaking on the phone for hours while doing even simple, mundane things. To adapt to virtual support sources, patients may need to rewire their "love languages" - in other words, consciously change their preferred styles of giving and receiving support. This is particularly hard on people who value physicality above all - simple gestures like a hug or an empathetic touch on the shoulder - who must actively learn to find solace in surprise deliveries or Netflix parties with loved ones.
Mental health apps allow patients to connect with licensed therapists for appointments via live chat, audio, and video or a combination thereof (Talkspace and Betterhelp are two big names in this space). Some therapists are making online arrangements independent of these apps (on Skype or FaceTime, for example) and others are avoiding telemedicine altogether. But generally speaking, therapists find online sessions to be beneficial during this time and are encouraging patients to seek or maintain treatment this way.
Unemployment rose to an all time high since the Great Depression. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 14.7% unemployment rate as of April 2020, and the reality may be higher. People find meaning in not only their work but in the people they work with. Essential work outside the home and work from home are not exactly ideal either; we know that very well by now. Some feel normal and productive while many others are at wit's end, overcoming a growing list of obstacles to perform mediocrely at best. Excess "career energy" may be increasingly directed to something necessary, meaningful, and at least partly in our control - like volunteering to make masks for healthcare workers. But that is no substitute for the workforces patients with limb loss once knew.
The consequences of all of this are debatable, and at the end of the day, unknown. I imagine we do the best we can and hope that any ensuing damage is reparable. With current measures in place, we are actively protecting medical staff, essential workers, and at-risk patient groups after all. The alternative to doing so is unspeakable.
About Writer: Pranita Muralidhar
Pranita Muralidhar is passionate about health sciences, entrepreneurship, and connecting people with products that benefit them the most. By contributing to the blog, Pranita hopes to help raise broad exposure and awareness of TheraV ELIX.
Learn more about Pranita at pranitamuralidhar.com