WACO, Texas (March 26, 2020) – For the week ending March 21, a record 3.28 million workers applied for unemployment benefits, a result of the sweeping economic consequences of COVID-19, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the proverbial “blink of an eye,” many find their neighbors, friends, family – and even themselves – out of jobs that only a few weeks ago seemed safe and secure.
The jobless are grieving. What’s our role? How do we help? How do we engage?
On Sunday I watched the news – until I couldn’t watch it any longer. I doubt I learned anything new during those three hours. I confess that I’ve never been much of a Sabbath observer, but I can say with confidence that there was nothing about Sunday that felt like a day of rest (except sleeping in and tuning into our church’s online worship service while still in my pajamas).
On Sunday I needed rest. I sat around all day, but it wasn’t rest. A big chunk of the day was spent consuming news that wasn’t new, except for the God-awful, rising number of COVID-19 cases and casualties, which only further prevented any sense of rest. Watching the news only fed fear and anxiety, doubt and disbelief.
WACO, Texas (March 25, 2020) – In a difficult and ever-changing time of crisis surrounding the spread of coronavirus, the basic needs of health and safety come first. But as these basic physiological needs are met, the more advanced care for spiritual and mental health can remain overlooked or ignored altogether.
Baylor University’s Holly Oxhandler, Ph.D., LMSW., associate dean for research and faculty development and assistant professor the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, is an expert on mental health, primarily anxiety and depression, as well as religion and spirituality in clinical practice.
WACO, Texas (March 17, 2020) – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease are at a high risk for the coronavirus.
The virus hit hard in late January at a nursing facility in the state of Washington, where a number of residents died. As a result, the CDC has recommended strong restrictions on visitors to long-term care facilities, and the health organization continues to preach limited physical contact and “social distancing” – creating intentional space of six feet or more between each person – to stem the spread of the virus.
I’ve always considered myself an “outgoing introvert,” meaning I like people but prefer to be alone. It’s almost a week into social distancing, and I’m already starting to question if I’m actually a full-blown extrovert.
I find myself craving human interaction, and my house is feeling a little smaller than normal. My ongoing inner refrain has become, “This is what caring for your neighbor looks like,” and I’ve worked it into mindfulness exercises during these last few days.
What a difference a few weeks make in the way the world operates. Widespread limits on social interaction, closing of restaurants and other gathering places, and the moving of worship services to online-only experiences are just a few of the ways the world is a different place today. Political leaders insist the changes are both necessary and temporary. The importance of “flattening the curve” to reduce the rate of Coronavirus infection escalation is essential to protecting the most vulnerable among us. Limiting the size of crowds, elbow bumps instead of hugs, and three to six feet of space between us are some of the operationalizations of social distancing. Others include canceling sporting events and meeting for worship and education on-line.
The physical separations are intended to protect our physical health. However, the two of us and many of our colleagues in mental health think the unintended emotional and relational consequences of all of this “social distancing” will be much deeper and wider unless we recognize the risk and take action. It appears that the social, emotional, and spiritual toll this is taking on individuals and communities is largely unseen by the mainstream media and in many cases by public health professionals alike.