I’m afraid this won’t be a very uplifting post. I do plan to end on a hopeful note, but I’m going to be talking about things that simply aren’t easy topics. These are some things I’ve been thinking about since the quarantine started, and I think it’s important to talk about them. I wanted to put that warning here, though, since I understand if you’re trying to avoid reading anything that might drag your mood down any further considering how much negativity we’re hearing right now.
Quarantine is being blamed for all kinds of things such as, “It’s ruining my life,” “It’s causing domestic violence,” “It’s making me hate my kids,” and “It’s causing a mental health crisis” (general examples, not actual quotes from anyone I know). Now, there’s no denying that the stress of a pandemic, and the changes resulting from efforts to stop the spread, are putting increased pressures on our lives. But maybe the quarantine isn’t causing all these issues. Maybe it’s making them so much worse that we’re finally noticing them on a wider scale.
It’s All About Me
One of the most disturbing things to come out of this quarantine (for me at least) is the realization that so many people don’t care about helping others if it inconveniences them. They don’t want to stay home because they feel healthy, and they don’t care that they could possibly spread the infection and lead to more deaths. “I have rights! If people weren’t so panicked they’d never have infringed on how I do things. It’s ridiculous that I have to stay home because other people are sick.”
This is so short-sighted I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this coronavirus really has been blow out of proportion and is no more serious than the flu. Even if that were true (and the facts so far say it’s not), if you could save just one life by obeying the stay at home order why wouldn’t you want to do that? and also take reasonable precautions when you do go out to avoid becoming infected or carrying the illness to someone else?
We’re not talking about just one life, though. It’s not worth sacrificing thousands of people so students can gather on the beach for spring break or your kids can play on a public playground or because for some inexplicable reason you felt the need to cough and spit all over the produce in a store. Your life’s not over because the quarantine introduces some inconveniences, but someone’s life could be over if we don’t take this seriously.
I’ve seen a couple posts on Facebook that talk about praying for the people who are socially isolated with their abusers. It seems a reasonable thing to post, highlighting a very real issue in our society today. And yet people laughed at them. Or they said maybe the situation’s not that great, but the stress of quarantine is what’s making it dangerous. Things get bottled up, there’s no release, and so of course there’s some extra tension.
But domestic violence isn’t an issue caused by being stuck at home because there’s a pandemic. In 2017, “50,000 women worldwide were killed by intimate partners or family members.” The highest percentage of these deaths happened in Africa, but the Americas are second on the list (from “U.N. Report: 50,000 Women A Year Are Killed By Intimate Partners, Family Members” by Diane Cole).
Speaking more specifically of the United States, “1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime” and “Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime” (statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). And it’s not just the partners who are in danger. Each year, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the United States, most in the form of neglect, but of the children in question 17.2 percent suffered physical abuse and 8.4 percent suffered sexual abuse (statistics from National Children’s Alliance). If all these statistics go up after quarantine that’s terrible, but quarantine isn’t the cause. It’s just exacerbating something that’s already a serious issue.
If you are in danger, you can reach out to one of these resources:
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
Call 1-800-799-7233 or chat online by clicking here
- National Dating Abuse Helpline
Call 1-866-331-9474, text LOVEIS to 22522, or visit www.loveisrespect.org
- National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp
Call 1-800-422-4453 or go to www.childhelp.org
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
Call 1-800-656-4673 or go to www.rainn.org
The Plight of Children
I don’t have kids. I can’t really say I understand how stressful it is to suddenly have children that used to go to public school at home all the time, or even to be homechooling and unable to take the kids on field trips. But I do know there’s a big difference between, “I love my kids but I really need some quiet time and adult conversation. I’m at my wit’s end trying to find ways to entertain them” and “I can’t stand being around these little creeps; someone open the schools before there’s violence.” Unfortunately, we’ve seen both perspectives and I’m not convinced the latter is always said in jest.
When schools here in Ohio first shut-down, I talked with a teacher and a cafeteria worker and both said one of their school’s top concerns was getting food to children who are not fed by their families. Isn’t that heartbreaking? We already talked about rates of abuse and neglect in the US, but now let’s take a broader view. The US does not stack-up well compared to similar nations in terms of how we treat our children. In fact, “a child born in the U.S. is 76 percent more likely to die before their first birthday than infants born in other wealthy countries, and children who survive infancy have a 57 percent greater risk of death before reaching adulthood.” For children, this is the most dangerous of the wealthy, democratic nations they could be born in (“U.S. Kids More Likely to Die Than Kids in 19 Other Nations” by Megan Trimble).
It’s not just other developed nations that are doing better than us. Until recently, the only nations in the world that don’t guarantee paid maternity leave were Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, Papua New Guinea, and the United States. The first three on that list took steps toward correcting the problem last year, leaving Papua New Guinea and the good ol’ US of A the only countries in the world without any guarantee that you can take care of your new baby and still have money coming in (see also “The world’s richest countries guarantee mothers more than a year of paid maternity leave. The U.S. guarantees them nothing” by Christopher Ingraham). There’s something troubling about how we treat children in this country, and that was happening long before the coronavirus.
Stress, anxiety, fear, loneliness, depression, and suicide. Those are all things that are becoming more of an issue in today’s virus-stricken society (“Coronavirus outbreak raises threats to mental health” by Reid Wilson). But while those are extremely serious, maybe the mental health epidemic didn’t start with the coronavirus (though it’s definitely making things worse). Maybe there was already a widespread problem and now we’re just realizing how much of an issue mental health struggles really are.
I’ve been very open on this blog about my struggles with anxiety and depression. Mental health is something I care deeply about and I want to increase awareness of how widespread these issues are, as well as encourage people to seek help. There is no doubt that the increased panic and stress is making things worse than they were before, including for people who normally manage their mental health issues well. However, the coronavirus and quarantine didn’t cause these problems.
In 2017, suicide claimed the lives of over 47,000 people in the United States. It was the 10th leading cause of death overall, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages of 10 to 34 (statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health). Looking at mental health issues in general, each year 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness and
1 in 25 experience serious mental illness. Among the youth, 1 in 6 between the ages of 6 and 17 experience a mental health disorder (statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness). And along with all that, there’s also the modern loneliness epidemic, which contributes to both mental and physical health issues. None of these problems are new. They’ve been going on for years.
Maybe prior to the quarantine you didn’t think of yourself as someone who struggled something that might qualify as a “mental health issue.” A lot more people are struggling right now, which is why you’ll find articles offering advice like “Psychology experts share their tips for safeguarding your mental health during quarantine.” If you’re really having trouble coping, though, please get professional help. More and more counselors are offering meetings online or by phone, so you can seek out help even during social distancing. Click here to access Psychology Today’s directory of mental health professionals and find a therapist or psychiatrist near you (you can sort results by those who offer online/phone counseling). If you need immediate help, you can reach out to one of these resources:
- Disaster Distress Helpline (SAMHSA)
Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 800-273-8255 or chat online by clicking here
- Crisis Textline
Text TALK to 741741 or visit www.crisistextline.org
- Veterans Crisis Line
Call 800-273-8255, text 838255, or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net
Things Will Never Be The Same
I’ve heard many people lament that things will never be the same in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated panic. While I understand what they mean, in some ways I hope things are not the same after all this is over.
I hope we emerge from this pandemic with a perspective that values others more and self-interest less.
I hope we learn from the dangers of this quarantine and commit to providing better help for people who are not safe in their homes.
I hope we work to change the situations and attitudes that lead to children being in danger in the first place.
I hope we recognize the need to prioritize mental health and provide more useful, accessible support to people who are struggling.
The pandemic we’re facing is definitely not a good thing. But if we can learn from what the pandemic highlights, then perhaps not every outcome from this coronavirus will be bad. I pray that this pandemic ends soon. I also pray that we will let it teach us where we could do better. And if we do that, then perhaps, as individuals and as a society, we can come out of this changed in good ways that help others and make our world a better place.
Featured image credit: jwvein via Pixabay