This past week has been one of the strangest weeks of my life. COVID 19 is turning everything and everyone upside down. By now we’re all familiar with the list of folks who are most at risk for serious complications from this virus, but there’s another group of people at risk that no one’s talking about. Theirs isn’t a higher risk of dying as a direct result of the virus, but rather from their own disease taking over their lives. I’m talking about those of us with mental illnesses.
No matter how well we are able to manage our illness under normal conditions, the added stress of the current pandemic will make it exponentially harder. Whether we suffer from an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, OCD, or anything else, there are many pitfalls for us during this crisis. We may not be able to get to our medical or therapy appointments because they are considered “non essential”. We may have difficulty getting our medications. We may be dealing with triggers that have derailed our best coping mechanisms in the past. The list goes on.
Adding to our stress are those who dismiss our concerns. They will say things like “Everyone is anxious right now, you’re nothing special”. Would you say that to a loved one who’s worried because they are immunocompromised as a result of cancer treatments or COPD? Of course not. You would make sure they are taking proper care of themselves. The same should be true of us.
If someone you know has trusted you enough to share their diagnosis of a metal illness with you please check on them. Listen to more than just their words for signs of struggle, and above all else let them know you care and you are there for them (from a safe distance of course). Think twice before posting/ sharing a meme about the pandemic that minimizes or mocks mental health conditions. Be a good friend and a good human. More lives are riding on this than you may ever know.