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Day 16: The looming mental health crisis (or Mass Awakening)



One of my favorite authors Mark Mansson wrote in his newsletter that Covid-19 pandemic is going to leave a mental health crisis in its wake. People with anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders are left by themselves without any human interaction. Community activities are effectively suspended. He says:


Here you have millions of people, stuck at home, physically isolated, not socializing as often or in as significant a way. They’re stressed with nowhere to go, many with no jobs and no guaranteed income in the foreseeable future. People aren’t exercising, sleeping well, or getting outside enough. It’s a perfect recipe for widespread depression.

Not just him, the Atlantic wrote a very long piece on how the pandemic will end. It says:

After infections begin ebbing, a secondary pandemic of mental-health problems will follow. At a moment of profound dread and uncertainty, people are being cut off from soothing human contact. Hugs, handshakes, and other social rituals are now tinged with danger. People with anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder are struggling. Elderly people, who are already excluded from much of public life, are being asked to distance themselves even further, deepening their loneliness. Asian people are suffering racist insults, fueled by a president who insists on labeling the new coronavirus the “Chinese virus.”Incidents of domestic violence and child abuse are likely to spike as people are forced to stay in unsafe homes.Children, whose bodies are mostly spared by the virus, may endure mental trauma that stays with them into adulthood

I do agree to some extent, in the short term this pandemic is going to be extremely hard on everyone especially for people who have a history of struggling with mental health. But there are several reasons why I think the world will eventually benefit in the long run.

Firstly, this is not an isolated case that is happening to any country or a community for that matter. For once, after the dawn of the internet and ubiquity of social media, we are all facing the same threat. This pandemic could very well be an alien that has come to wipe the human race and the human race has united itself to defeat it. (The plot of every extra-terrestrial movie). Despite the physical separation, there is a common thread that is uniting us, hence why I believe that even though we might be separated from our tribe physically, we are more connected metaphysically.

Secondly, the modern man, especially the one living in the developed countries has had it very easy. The continuous growth in the developed world and the distribution of wealth has meant that we are not facing the same problems that our ancestors faced. There is no war, no starvation, no lack of health care. As a non-European immigrant, it was impressive to me when I saw my colleagues planning their vacations a year in advance. Not just that but the whole life seemed to be following a set of defined milestones:

  1. Graduate

  2. Get a job

  3. Get a partner

  4. Buy a car

  5. Buy an apartment

  6. Switch jobs (if needed)

  7. Have kids

  8. Raise kids

  9. Retire

This might seem overly simplistic at first, and this might be my limited observation in the bubble that I live in, but as compared to the developing countries, this future planning shows the faith people have in the system, faith which allows them to live a life with predictability.


Now when you insert a chaotic variable in the system that upends your way of living then all your assumptions are simultaneously shattered. For once the system does not work as you predicted. For once you are at the risk of losing your job, your family, your partner, and your home. To a modern man living in comfort (including myself), this is all that defines us. Who are we without our jobs? Our titles? Our families? Our partners? and our health?


It is only adversity that wipes the silt from the top of the pond to show us the depths of exactly who we are. What are we truly made of? This awareness creates a quality within that shines through our being. It is not abstract; the gait, the posture and even the way of talking are different of a man who has willingly gone through fire and survived. He is humble and loving, kinder and caring. He carries what is truly important and sheds the unessential. He is never lonely because he always has himself. The modern man has had the secret of life backward. True connection with others only happens when we are connected to ourselves first [1].

I am very optimistic about the future, I hope and pray that the humankind learns to make the best of a worse situation. That this mass experiment in individuation makes us all more self-aware, empathetic and caring of everyone.

/M

[1] This is why one can feel lonely at the height of fame and why another person can feel fulfilled living alone in a broken cottage without electricity. That comes from a true story

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© 2017-2020 By Hafiz Abdul Manan.

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