It has always been difficult to talk about mental health, its personal, its scary and it has huge ramifications. At MAFSI, we had it had it on our issue list for 2020. We recognized that mental health was a much-neglected topic in the workplace and hired Ben Nemtin, author and motivational speaker, to speak at MAFSI 2020 in San Diego about depression and its reality in the workplace. Ben brought down the house, and brought some to tears. The feedback from our members was astounding. We hit a nerve, a much neglected nerve, and vowed to help all of our members achieve their “dream lists” or bucket lists helped by Ben. Little did we know, five weeks later, our entire country and their physical and mental health would be tested to the limits.
As we come out of the challenges of the COVID pandemic, which is probably the toughest assault on the human condition since World War two, we will start to see the true damage done by lockdowns and curfews. The debate will go on for some time as the post-mortem is completed. First everyone was assaulted with fear, the headlines raged about death and disease and the numbers being thrown around were terrifying. Then came the removal of personal freedoms. It was never discussed publicly by our politicians whether citizens could be responsible enough to look after themselves or others. Rather, it was forced on everyone that they must remove themselves from any public contact and only associate with immediate family. There were few considerations for single people or small groups. You could buy essentials but then you were to go home immediately. People started working from home, reducing their social contact, and limiting new experiences. Everyone Zoomed - and that was a bit of an improvement with online contact for work, friends, and family. But it is not the same as real human contact, which as the social animals we are, is essential for mental peace.
So here we are, fifteen months later, and the damage is shocking. Drug overdoses in my city exceeds the number of COVID deaths in the last six months. It is estimated that significant percentage of all people will take months and even years get over the fear of going out into a crowded world again. Add to that the financial damage many people have suffered and you have more mental stress than we have seen in our lifetimes.
So, what do we do? It does not matter how mentally tough or emotionally smart you are it will take some time. Take small steps, get used to groups of people, decide what you may need in the way of contact and support. Do not be afraid to ask for help, talk to someone, a professional or even a best friend. How people deal with this will make the reopening and moving back to normality easier or more difficult. Normal will be different for different people. I started shaking people’s hands again last week and I was surprised at the way that made me feel, stronger but still thinking, “was that the right thing to do?”. Let us get on with our lives but be kind, to yourself and others.
I would like to offer this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n02vd_FNVVY
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