Covid 19 and Mental Health, Looking into the 2020s
May 13, 2020
At the time of writing this, we are all experiencing a global event that is unprecedented in any of our lifetimes (unless of course you were born prior to 1918 in which case I offer my sincerest apologies for the category exclusion and for you having to relive this all over again).
Covid-19 has undoubtedly caused hurt and worry to so many people, nations and organisations alike and it is safe to say that it is an event which we will never wish to relive again. However, in the midst of such darkness I can’t help but think there are some positive emergences beginning to emerge. Reported photos of dolphins in the Venice canals (which we now know turned out to actually be off the Sardinian coast, but nonetheless is a nice thought), clearer skies and fewer carbon emissions all evidence the environmental benefits of a world in a lockdown.
However, perhaps the most underestimated and unforeseen benefit of this global pandemic which is slowly rearing its head is the wonders it will undoubtedly achieve for mental health.
Often times mental health struggles are very hard to understand unless one has fallen victim to their perils before. It can be compared to attempting to empathise with a co-worker, friend or family members' anguish when they claim to have a bad headache or migraine; more often than not there are no other symptoms than just what the victim seems to be claiming - or feeling. As such it is ail which is very hard to imagine, understand and treat; that is under normal circumstances. Yet as already alluded to above these strange, uncertain times are not normal, far from it, they are abnormal and they are forcing us to confront more and more internal struggles by the day. Struggles that perhaps we have never seen, noticed or experienced before. Struggles that do not discriminate based on hierarchy, race, gender or creed. One is forced to ask themselves - is this such a bad thing? We are all currently guinea pigs in the coronavirus testbed reacting to uncomfortable, unfamiliar environments and sensations. But with these uncomfortable changes we are being forced to feel what others have felt for so long, we are being forced to confront decisions and behaviours which may have otherwise been carried out robotically with no second guess. It can be argued that stripping away what may be considered our most humane freedoms is making us more human than ever.
In a world filled with so many wondrous and innovative advancements, we are often left struggling to keep up and in this struggle, it can be tempting to neglect factors which make us valuable and unique as human beings. I suppose the evident and somewhat ironic example of this is the unrivalled ability of social media in making us less social. The rise of instant messaging applications such as Slack and Microsoft Teams which in many of the places I have worked at, are seen as the ‘Instagram of the office'. We have to ask ourselves, is it normal to converse with a co-worker who sits directly opposite you, over the message? Is that beneficial to an organisations communication and ultimately culture? When one considers that 55% of communication is body language, I know what my answer is.
No suggestion is being made that we suddenly shift back to the 1980s and neglect the amazing innovations and tech-driven applications that are present today. What is being suggested is that we show the same attention and pursuit of innovation relating to the ‘human side effects’ of the digital age. In such a dark period and horrific time for all of us, it is helpful to think of the positives. Perhaps a global shutdown provides the peace and quiet needed for reflection on such a fast decade and the time to reassess the way we value humanity in ourselves and those around us.