Thursday, May 7, 2020

Mental Health in a Time of Pandemic

I can think of a lot of good reasons not to rely on mental health professionals for mental health care. But, Dr. Sally Satel says it better in this National Review article, so I will leave her the floor.

As for the impending national mental illness crisis, Satel explains that most people will do just fine without treatment. Surely, some do, but we should not underestimate the power of resilience:

As a psychiatrist, I am skeptical that a national crisis of mental illness is looming. Researchers have long known that most people are resilient in the face of crisis and do not succumb to psychopathology. Vulnerable individuals are likely to be those who suffer a relapse of a preexisting mental-health disorder or who experience an exacerbation of current symptoms of depression or anxiety. The stimulus bill enacted at the end of March included $425 million for emergency mental-health and substance-abuse problems, suicide prevention, and community mental-health centers. In view of the chronic underfunding of our public mental-health-care system, the increased expenditure is welcome.

What do you do to maintain your psychic equilibrium under social isolation? We have mentioned these before. As have others. Satel sums it up in two sentences:

Under lockdown, basic mental hygiene will suffice for most: Get out of your pajamas each morning, keep a routine, and get ample sleep and exercise. Also connect, connect, and (virtually) connect with family and friends, and help others do the same.

And then, she adds, don’t rely on the experts. Rely on friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Feeling like a member of a functioning community will do you much more good than will lying on the couch whining about your mother:

The solution for the alienated and the financially unstable isn’t mental-health experts. It is neighbors, community, and money. When embattled, most people are sustained by their families and communities, and those need to remain upright. Careful and gradual commercial awakening is essential, but until desperate people can work, both they and the economy must be given money, along the lines of the stimulus package: payments to individuals, unemployment benefits, small-business support, and paycheck-protection aid.

This is a terrible time for many Americans. But the extent and depth of despair — and the power to contain it — depend less on the ministrations of therapists and psychiatrists and more on the rest of us. It depends on governments to keep the financial lifeblood circulating and on neighbors and communities to keep the civic fabric strong. The more we medicalize normal and temporary reactions to a crisis and outsource its management to professionals, the more we risk diluting the felt obligations of those sheltering institutions.

One understands that when government is throwing money at a problem, everyone, including mental health professionals, will have a hand out. Don’t expect government to save us. Don’t expect that more money for mental health workers is going to produce more mental health. There’s more to life than therapy.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

I'm going mad! MAD!! Do you hear? MADDDDDDDDDDDDdddddddddd. (I slap myself!) Thanks; I needed that. (Self-Correction, phase 1.)