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The second curve

April 23, 2020


I’m not sure if everyone picked up on an image I shared back on the 14th. Here it is again. I’m not sure if you noticed what was taken out of the top 10 with COVID’s accession. I didn’t until I looked back at it after my good friend who is a psychiatrist forwarded me this 7min podcast. It’s worth it. I’ll wait. 

OK, thanks for listening to that. The mental health “hit” our country (our world) will take will certainly affect the poster child of mental health issues... suicide. But, an increase in suicide is likely just the tip of the iceberg. When we look below the water’s surface at the iceberg in total, we will see increases in PTSD, depression, anxiety, drug, and alcohol addiction. Just to name a few. 

Thoughts from a friend, who is a psychiatrist, on this topic, and about what she is seeing in her practice...

Everyone is struggling with feelings related to grief. We have lost our comfort in safely engaging in our environment, our future plans, to be with loved ones when they are sick, to work, our financial security, and a million other things. These feelings show up as sadness and also anger, at people who don’t wear masks, at our leadership, at our friends who are not socially distancing. 

Everyone is struggling with anxiety and fear. Of getting sick, or worrying about who we know who might get sick, but also with the uncertainty. We can’t be sure what will happen next month.e can’t plan for the summer. We can’t know if we waited long enough before we brought in the mail. Our brains are comforted by predictability and patterns. The unfamiliar takes an emotional toll that leads us to feel tired and irritable. We have trouble sleeping.

Many people are struggling with loneliness. I believe that without genuine connection, we cannot be mentally well. There’s a reason solitary confinement is a punishment. I am asking every patient about how they are staying connected to friends and family from a distance.

Many people are increasing their substance use of alcohol and marijuana to manage these feelings and also to manage feelings of boredom and monotony. The memes and jokes shared on social media reflect this while normalizing this way of coping. I believe this coping strategy handicaps our natural ability to process our difficult emotions.

Fortunately, there’s a lot of good for our mental health as well. Many of us have slowed down, and I hear a lot about being more observational and introspective. Obviously there are many, many examples of people helping each other and random acts of kindness and gratitude. We are connecting as a community with our neighbors and with strangers. We are thinking about many things larger than ourselves and of people other than those in our tribe. We are vulnerable and we know it. This allows for more trust and honesty and deeper connections. I believe humans get more creative and flexible with struggle, and I’m excited to see what we come up with.

I’ll simply follow up those thoughts with a related fact that blew my mind from the before referenced 7-min podcast that you should listen to <nudge> <nudge>. They mention that one-third of those living through the trauma of a disaster or war see some kind of mental health after-effect. It’s not only why we need to stay emotionally connected, but it’s also why I place those words before physically distant. 

Stay emotionally connected and physically distant,


PS: There is a follow up on earth day. If you want to feel goose pimples, listen to this.