Negative effects of social distancing can be reduced by emotionally connecting with others, says expert
Coronavirus has had a series of wide-ranging impacts of society and has resulted in an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression
While the novel coronavirus has already claimed over 84,136 lives in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University, national public health group Well Being Trust has warned that as many as 75,000 Americans more could die because of drug or alcohol misuse and suicide because of despair caused by the pandemic.
The pandemic has had a series of wide-ranging impacts on society and has resulted in a growing unemployment crisis and economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression in 1929. These factors, combined with the stress caused by social isolation that has become necessary and a lack of a definitive date for a return to normalcy could significantly increase "deaths of despair" unless action is taken, experts have warned.
MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) spoke to certified Life Coach Anita Kanti, the author of 'Behaving Bravely: How to Mindshift Life's Challenges', about the grim outlook, and she similarly said steps have to be taken by federal, state, and local authorities to help those at risk. "Addiction of any kind doesn’t discriminate during a crisis, but the fact is, we are seeing an increase in alcohol intake," she said. "Research-backed stats showcase spikes in daily drinking consumption, more specifically around the rise of virtual happy hours and curbside/delivery liquor access."
"Bottom line, the quarantine is adding a wave of mental and social-behavioral negative coping mechanisms with regards to alcohol and drug abuse. Reliance on the government taking an aggressive stance has to be a priority and authorities need to increase effective measures around support, education, and awareness expansion. Targeted public service messages on accessing resources for addiction specialists, public health social media campaigns, messaging in educational sectors, along with affordable treatments, demand attention. A deeper review of the violations and legal procedures are vital to adapt to current times."
While the prediction for tens of thousands of deaths may seem outlandish, there is precedence for such a claim. Unemployment during the Great Depression was associated with an increase in suicide and drug overdose deaths, according to the Well Being Trust.
Suicide and drug overdoses also rose along with unemployment during the 2008 recession, which saw unemployment rise from 4.6 percent in 2007 to as high as 10 percent in October 2009. To compare that to today's situation, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN he believes the unemployment rate was above 16 percent this past April and may even have been as high as 20 percent.
With governments at all levels hard-pressed in handling the coronavirus's impact on the healthcare system, the pandemic's ramifications on mental health could likely take a backseat as far as priorities are concerned.
And as Kanti will tell you, mental health is just as important as the physical even when the virus's obvious and visible impact is on the latter. "Mental and physical health are interdependent on one another, and your mental health (emotional, spiritual) plays an active role in your physical," she said.
"Emotional health is tied to emotional intelligence and committing to a growth mindset where you adapt to change at any level with optimism and resourcefulness, structures our thoughts, behaviors, and actions during uncertainty."
There are steps that one can take to help themselves when it's seemingly not forthcoming from the outside and all else fails. Kanti said getting through these difficult times would require a heightened sense of practicing self-awareness.
"How we respond to our fear, anxiety, and stressors require shifting our thoughts to serve us for the positive by honing in on three areas," she told MEAWW. "1. Recognize the triggers and confirm them. Name it, claim it, and own it as hard as that is to swallow sets you in a mode to tackle them. 2. Get an A-Team. Lining up the right individuals in the right areas to support you when you need help. Knowing we don’t have to face our fears alone and seeking support from those that have 'been in our shoes' can offer comfort. 3. Focus on what you have control over. Staying in our lane and focusing on what is most important keeps us in gratitude and balances emotional wellness."
Kanti would know a thing or two about overcoming the odds, especially when the prospects seem bleak as they do now. Having struggled with self-confidence and depression, losing her business at 40 years old, and once making it by with just $300 in her account, she now offers advice to some of the largest global technology companies in the world, as well as individuals and couples.
All is not lost, even though it may feel like it. Kanti said people could still use this time for self-improvement and to create a roadmap for the future.
"While we are socially distancing ourselves, commit to social bridging with others," she shared. "Bridge to create an environment to keep you motivated, plan for the future, and engage in the opportunity of purposeful work. Mind-shifting from victim to hero, we can reframe negative self-beliefs by replacing them with benevolent self-beliefs to progress moving forward. Finally, be the change you wish to see. Stay committed to the newly learned lessons, living our best life, and moving towards a new normal with certainty."
"Don't worry through it, wander through it — it's a better journey," she added.