As the U.S. approached 100,000 COVID-related deaths this Memorial Day weekend, many are left scrambling to find a new standard of normal. The unknowns of life post-pandemic looms in many American minds, clouding the country with fear, anxiety, and even depression.
A term that has been used to describe the impact of this worldwide pandemic is “collective trauma,” the response that may trail after a variety of traumatic experiences- such as recessions, pandemics, or severe poverty. The Disaster Distress Helpline has seen an 891% increase in calls in March compared to last year. Just like hospitals have experienced a higher influx of patients during a pandemic, mental health resources have been strained to their breaking points. Like the virus, untreated mental health can wreak havoc, destroy relationships, and even kill. When the world is turned upside down, the trauma is dealt with as a community and can change the fabric of society as we know it. The infrastructure of our country’s mental health was already near-broken pre-COVID, but now mental health infrastructure is inadequate. We need new, innovative practices in response to the pandemic.
Mental Health Resources
The collective trauma of the United States is especially disheartening at this time. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed holes in the mental health care system and has left Americans unsure about where to go for help as fears about maintaining physical health deteriorate one’s mental health. Professor of sociology, Dr. Jeffrey Alexander, who specializes in cultural and collective trauma, stated “the collective of the United States is experiencing a sense of tremendous instability and anxiety because we thought we were a great country — the greatest country. And now we see other countries doing a lot better than we are. So then the question is, who are we then?” As the nation struggles to find a sense of identity in the aftermath of a pandemic, online communities are more important than ever before. When we are supposed to be physically social distancing, we can often forget while in isolation that everything we are currently feeling is understandable and, at times, unavoidable.
These negative feelings are not entirely unique and are experienced by many across the country and the globe. Community behavioral health centers have been a resource to those most at risk but they are struggling to stay financially viable. In March, the federal government distributed $100 million in funding for community centers with the most vulnerable patients, but many other centers are still strapped for cash and will likely close. Online communities are a free vital resource to help remedy the losses of in-person communities. Online communities can help connect people with each other and work through this overwhelming flow of difficult emotions. There are numerous resources online that have arisen as a result to combat these flaws in the mental healthcare system.
One such community that has been introduced during this pandemic is Osmind, which provides a care platform to accelerate mental health drug development and a free online community for patients with treatment-resistant depression. This community offers a directory of treatment-resistant depression clinics and weekly AMAs (“ask me anything”) featuring guests ranging from leading researchers in treatment-resistant depression and FDA-approved psychedelic medicine to movie producers specializing in mental health. A Reddit user who joined the Osmind community states “I’ve never really met other people dealing with this, so I hope you know how appreciative I am of what you all are doing :)”. When facing a crisis, having a community of people with you who know what you are going through will help you bear the burden.
Find a therapist
Many therapists have begun transitioning their practices to an online environment as a result of COVID-19. Telepsychiatry makes the usually difficult act of seeking a therapist now accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Airapy is the first marketplace designed for booking therapy appointments. Amidst the pandemic, Airapy has developed a HIPAA-compliant platform that allows you to meet your therapists through a custom videochat feature.
There is nothing normal about this challenging time and the pandemic has impacted every sphere of our lives. As the devastating wave of COVID-19 washes away, collective trauma is left in its place. As we adapt our ways of living and grieve our old lives as a community it is important to know that you are not alone and we are all going through this together. If you are feeling stress, depressed, or anxious, don’t wait. Get help. Valuable resources like Osmind and Airapy are revolutionizing mental health care and will soon become the new normal of mental health care as we know it.