By Mark Schlussel, CEO
As a nation we are facing a pandemic that threatens the fabric of our society – We are aware of the need for social distancing and washing of hands frequently. Those messages have been received. However, as the reality of our isolation sinks in, we need to turn our attention to the mental health cost, as well as the physical and economic costs, of this pandemic. There is no doubt in my mind that this experience will impact each one of us, no matter our background or socio-demographic. We will each never be the same as we come through this crisis. Our lives have been altered in ways we don’t yet even understand. Our confidence in our health system is being destroyed. We have lived with the belief that we had the best healthcare system in the world. In many ways, that is still true. Day-to-day our health system is one of the finest in the world, but now we’re facing the reality of the limits of our delivery system.
We also need to really explore our social network for those that are alone. The lonely are going to experience isolation at a level never experienced before. How do we help others deal with this total disruption to the cycles of our lives. The things we used to do without a second thought have been eliminated for the foreseeable future. We are being attacked by virus that we can’t see, feel or understand.
The psychological impact on people who are isolated and alone cannot be underestimated. We need to focus our attention on their needs, both short-term and long-term. The sense of insecurity that this virus has generated will continue long after the disease has been brought under control. We are living through a sea change of emotional insecurity. We need to be prepared for this “new normal” continuing for more than weeks and months – but for years.
We must realign our mental health resources in order to rebuild our confidence in our health system. Ironically, this pandemic will result in geometric expansion of telehealth. While it has its drawbacks, one of the best uses in medicine of this technology is the delivery of mental health services. We, as a society, have an opportunity to dramatically expand our interactions with those who are facing this extended period of isolation by making group interactions with skilled professionals available now. The impact of COVID-19 is frightening for all of us. Let’s not forget that mental health is also in great jeopardy. We need to tend to these needs to heal our society