The study suggests that 28 percent of men report serious mental distress, compared with 4 percent in 2018; for women, it’s 27 percent compared with 2 percent two years ago. For adults in a household with children younger than 18, 37 percent report serious distress, compared with 3 percent previously.
Of course, you knew all of that, either personally or intuitively or anecdotally. These are strange times, and nothing in our experience has informed us on how to deal with them. Unlike natural disasters, the pandemic is ongoing, with no telling how long it will last; when a tornado hits, the damage is done and then you can focus on the cleanup. Unlike economic downturns, this recession arrived with little warning; typically, you can see the wave slowly rolling across the country.
As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said: “We talk about the economic consequences, but we also need to talk about the social consequences. The stress, the anxiety, the emotions that are provoked by this crisis are truly significant, and people are struggling with the emotions as much as they are struggling with the economics.”
Nothing profound there. But it’s better than suggesting that people inject disinfectants.
There is no shortage of recommendations to be found on the internet for trying to keep your wits during the pandemic. Things like establishing a daily routine, learning a new skill and maintaining relationships through phone calls or online meetings can help.
So can speaking with a mental health counselor. Clark County’s website offers a list of mental health providers in the community, and the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness has a calendar of online events for those desiring help.
In the long run, there is no predicting the transformational impact COVID-19 will have on American life. Ideally, it will lead to a recognition that we do a poor job of planning for the future and that the mythology of rugged American individualism is not only outdated, but that it was phony to begin with.
As author Johann Hari told Vox.com: “Depression and anxiety are signals telling us that our needs are not being met … the single most helpful thing we can do going forward is to allow ourselves to hear the signal.”
Whether or not the United States is listening remains to be seen; this will take years to play out. In the meantime, we go about our day, wondering whether it will be any different from the one before and the one before that.