Living in a Contagion of Fear

We are all dealing with the collective loss of the world we knew,

The world we knew is now gone forever.

David Kessler

COVID-19 is real; there is no disputing that fact. Many Canadians have been infected, many have developed symptoms, some have been hospitalized, and a small percentage, mostly the elderly and some younger with pre-existing comorbidities have died. The following chart shows the statistics from Ontario Ministry of Health as of January 12, 2021:

COVID-19 is real, death is real, but what of the collateral damage experienced through subsequent lockdowns of cities and then the entire province? What we have experienced includes delayed and interrupted health care; extensive unemployment; business closings; increased domestic violence and child abuse, deterioration in mental health with an escalation in anxiety and depression; increased opioid crisis and related deaths as well as overall increase in addictive behaviours – we are a people that feed our pain. And sometimes we just give up – suicide ideation has increased over 8%, and I expect it will skyrocket over the coming months.

There is a strong correlation between economic recession and public health; therefore what we are now witnessing is just the tip of the iceberg.

With regard to physical health, doctors are now suggesting that they will experience a ‘tsunami’ of cancer diagnosis after lockdowns are lifted as screening processes were brought to a halt. Cases have been missed as people are not able to access the care they need. On top of this is the new fear people have about going to a hospital, and most doctors’ offices remain open only for online appointments.

Another consideration that we might be hearing more about over the coming months is the ramifications of infections from wearing masks for hours a day. One study in the UK found that children wore masks for an average of 4.5 hours per day, with parents reporting impairments in 66% of cases. The psychological impact alone is staggering as we consider that children, especially young ones, are dependent on reading facial expressions and emotional reactions. I believe that we are going to experience multiple health and behavioural outcomes due to this and the unwarranted fear and terror they are experiencing.

Along with this, children’s routines (as for us all) have been seriously disrupted. School cancellations, social interactions, lack of family routines are producing a record number of eating and sleep disorders. Fear, the root of the anxiety and worry is causing withdrawal, irritability and a deep sorrow. A point of interest here is that Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, again in January, 2021 recommends keeping schools open, as children, especially those under 10, are less likely to transmit the virus. Yet these words seem to fall on deaf ears.

Living in the perpetual contagion of fear that has brought about so many losses, means that we have a society of grief. A one sided focus in mainstream media has created this contagion of fear by focusing on reducing the risks of infection and death from this disease to the exclusion of all other health risks and life concerns. These losses are going to be staggering.

In explaining grief to clients I often provide the following ‘grief ball’. Children can colour in the emotions they are feeling day by day (if you supply them with several sheets). I’m sure as you look at this, many of these words will jump off the page for you as well.

For many these days of lockdowns feel like we are walking in a fog, hardly knowing where our next step will put us. This is especially true for seniors who live alone, struggling with isolation, loneliness, sorrow, and mental health issues are more likely to pay attention to physical health issues. It also is true for those who have lost businesses and jobs, many who are now at home fulltime attempting to homeschool children. On the other hand area those in essential service sectors who are working longer hours, and battling exhaustion along with the issues on the home front.

The long term effect of such fear and subsequent lockdowns that have affected the entire culture can influence generations to come who never experienced this ‘pandemic’ first hand.

An example of historical trauma is that of the great depression. Although I did not experience it, the stories my parents shared were heart rending.

Fortunately for me, they did not catastrophize or move into fear as they shared their experiences, but catastrophizing is a very real concern for our society today as we are already prone to extremism in the area of needing to ‘feel safe’.

Minimizing fear and maximizing hope by focusing on the truths of COVID-19 and maintaining family, church and social connections will become even more important in days to come.

Where this will all end is anyone’s guess, but according to Klaus Swabb in his book, The Great Reset, COVID-19 is an opportunity to restructure society. I’ll write more on this later.