Covid-19 conversations: The things we are not talking about

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Covid-19 conversations: The things we are not talking about

BY Carolyn Graham

Friday, April 03, 2020

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Whether we believe it was the beginning of a new decade or not — as was the debate — the year 2020 has certainly given us more than enough to attend to in a short period of time. COVID-19, the most democratic of world events we have seen in a while, is upon us. As we are witnessing, this disease is no respecter of persons; from princes to paupers, and everything in between, have contracted the disease or are at risk. What makes a difference to a great extent is that the princes among us who are at the very top of the class structure have a better chance of survival because they have the means; the means to private care at home and who, I can safely guess, have bought their own ventilators and other necessities just in case, or those with their own private islands and other means to go offshore and ride this out, as it seems the Swedes are doing. In any case, their importance would also put them at the head of the queue to receive medical care.

We have known for centuries that Charles Darwin had this wrong, it's survival of the richest. And COVID-19 has exposed these inequalities in a way that is undeniable. Class aside, the majority of us are in the same boat.

Surviving COVID-19 is not just about avoiding contraction or recovering — if we do get it — but it has laid bare other frailties; from our economies and social systems to our relationships and mental health. As such, conversations about survival should also include those about preserving our mental health and relationships. They should, perhaps, be as prominent as concerns about the stock market, giving updates on the number of infections and the number of deaths, the dire state of medical supplies, and the fact that health care providers are stretched beyond breaking point in most, if not all places.

We need to talk about what we can do when faced with our own company for the first time. There are people who genuinely do not like to be alone. What can we do when faced with the company of others over an extended period of time and the lack of reprieve? What can we do when those we thought we loved are now grating on our last nerves? How do we manage tempers and disagreements when the only place we can walk to is the bathroom or living room — and some of us are not so lucky to have even that space? In short, how do we practise self-care and care of others in these circumstances? What constructive coping mechanisms can we employ at this time? Some places in the world are reporting increases in liquor sales online. Can we speculate that the sale and therefore consumption and abuse of other substances have also increased?

Relationships are being strained at this time. Some countries have expressed concern that the quarantine might lead to increases in domestic violence. What is the situation for us here in Jamaica? I believe the media and our Government, while focusing on the immediate effects of COVID-19, should be mindful of the less obvious issues as they have implications for how we survive and recover from these difficult times.

Have the conversations. Kindly call upon our experts — our psychologists, counsellors, nutritionists, fitness experts, and so on — for practical tips that we can use to survive. Things such as exercise and how this can be done from home, reading, or taking up that hobby that we had put aside due to work pressures will all help. Do that online course we have been meaning to start. Write that article or finish that painting. Restorative practices are important, take up meditation or yoga; 10 minutes a day of reflection and breath work might be very useful. The idea is to find practical things we can do at this time, particularly those of us in the urban centres stuck in apartments and townhouses surrounded by concrete.

The media could perhaps include such programming. Let people know it is OK to feel stressed, to feel like you don't like your children or your partner. Explain the psychology and physiology of the state of fight, flight, fright that we are all experiencing now so people do not further guilt-trip themselves for feeling angry or frustrated because they are stuck inside; because you are scared you will lose your job; because savings are running out; because there were no savings to begin with.

These are trying times and we want to preserve our mental health as much as possible. There are serious implications for abuse and suicide at this time. We should be making every attempt to get people to understand that feeling down is expected, that they are not horrible people, but that they are humans, and what to do when such feelings arise.

Carolyn A E Graham, PhD, AFHEA, lectures business research methods. The views expressed are her own. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or carolynaeg@gmail.com.


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