“What about mental health?” I’ve seen this question asked over and over in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a concern for many, including myself. As many of you know I have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Things have been up and down week after week, month after month.
But what confuses me is what some people say after that. They want to use “mental health” as the reason why should eliminate most if not all of the Covid restrictions and safety measures.
I’ve seen many, many comments of people saying they want everything open and have zero restrictions so that people’s mental health won’t suffer staying home, but then they also think requiring masks, social distancing, and other precautions is preposterous and fight against that. What they aren’t seeing is eliminating these restrictions would keep people who are concerned about their health at home, when they are the ones who need to be able to get out the most. That includes people like me who are concerned about their physical health AND their mental health.
Here’s the thing, guys…you can be concerned about mental health AND Covid-19. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Advocating for one does *not* mean you have to, or should, disregard the other. They are both real. Both can be unpredictable. Both can become deadly. Both NEED to be taken seriously. We have to work together to create sensible plans instead of saying all or nothing.
I’m not here to convince anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. We all have the freedom of choice. Even with mandates, rules, and laws, we all have the choice on whether we will follow them or not. There really isn’t anyone forcing you to do anything. If you want to break a law or disregard mandates, you can. There may be consequences, but let’s be real, there is very little punishment if you do.
But DO NOT say that your decision to advocate against safety restrictions or to not wear a mask is for my mental health. That is simply not true. You don’t know anything about me or what I need as a person with a mental illness.
You know what I need? I need people to wear their masks so that I can go shopping without feeling like I might have an anxiety attack when you roll up super CLOSE to me in the produce section.
What I need is to be able to go places when I’m feeling trapped in a depressive episode without fearing for my safety because you are taking “a stand” for your principles.
WHAT I NEED is for people to take this effing pandemic seriously so that case numbers and deaths go DOWN, not up, so that we CAN open things up more and I can see my therapist IN PERSON one day!
What I really need is for people to not send their kids to school when they have symptoms of illness, even the sniffles, so that schools don’t close down again where we live, because that’s one of the only things keeping me sane right now.
If people were more careful, and took responsibility for how their actions affect others, more businesses could open, and we could actually get back to a fraction of normalcy economically and socially.
If you don’t want to wear a mask for any other reason besides it being a medical necessity to go without, then you need to look yourself in the mirror and see that the only person benefiting from that decision is YOU.
And you know what? Just own that.
But DO NOT say you’re doing it to help mentally ill people, or freedom, or some other nonsense. Because what looks like freedom to you is actually becoming a prison for me.
I am making the choice to go places, safely, for my mental health. That is my choice and I own it. I know the risks. I weigh them carefully everyday. It’s never been so difficult for me as it is now to go places, and yet I’ve never needed to go places more than I do now. And unfortunately it feels like a lose-lose decision most of the time.
I wish we could come together to work on both mental health and eradicating Covid-19. I am concerned about suicide rates. I fear more and more people, including myself, getting to that awful place if things continue to get worse as more people die, ICUs fill up, healthcare workers are exhausted beyond burnout and becoming ill themselves, leaving us in a worse position than before.
This situation is only going to become more deadly if we continue to act as if everything is fine and we can’t get sick. Or that nothing bad will happen if you get sick. That may not be the case for the person pushing the cart next to you at the grocery store. It’s not just old people dying, y’all (and when did old people become disposable, anyway?).
The bottom line: if you care about mental health, you need to care about Coronavirus.