EDITORIAL

The unseen toll of resiliency

Posted 2/10/21

The past year has taught us all a thing or two about resiliency. For some of us, that has meant fighting through losing your job or shuttering a business. For others, this has meant grieving through the sudden loss of a loved one to a cause most unfair

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EDITORIAL

The unseen toll of resiliency

Posted

The past year has taught us all a thing or two about resiliency. For some of us, that has meant fighting through losing your job or shuttering a business. For others, this has meant grieving through the sudden loss of a loved one to a cause most unfair and unforeseen. For most of us, however, resiliency has taken the form of a daily recognition and acceptance that life will never truly be the same as it was prior to 2020.

For a year we have worried about ourselves, our family and our friends getting sick, about making monthly payments without a solid source of income, or about what society will even look like once we’re able to re-emerge and start the recovery process. Throughout all of this, most of us have been lucky enough to be able to continue to go to work – likely remotely or some combination of it – and continue to venture out into a world where mask-wearing and hand sanitizing is simply the new way of existing. Constantly, the fear of sickness and death must be pushed aside to persist through everyday life.

The precise toll that such a prolonged period of forcing a stiff upper lip takes on our physical and mental wellbeing cannot be so easily measured – nor can the long-term impacts that quarantine life may have on us for years to come once normalcy has been reinstated. However, some encouraging initial research is showing that humanity may not be as easily breakable as we may have once thought during the beginning of COVID.

A study of over 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom followed participants from the onset of the quarantine until recent months. Despite many experts warning of a so-called “mental health tsunami” bearing down on us, these participants have shown researchers that, for the most part, only those who were already at a higher risk of suffering from mental health issues have been adversely impacted by the additional stressors of the pandemic – such as those who were already isolated or unable to react to changes in their lives prior to COVID-19.

Interestingly enough, the biggest factor contributing to adverse mental health reactions in these participants were not directly linked to fearing the deadly disease at all, but rather the secondary economic impacts caused by the fight to prevent rising death tolls and hospitalizations. People, the study posits, are much more concerned about concrete concerns such as losing their job, their livelihoods, rather than the existential threat of losing their life to a strange new illness.

The impact of the pandemic on children, however, will likely be the area of study most important for sociologists and psychologists moving forward. There is no telling how much emotional and cognitive damage is being done to young children growing up in an environment so full of fearful images, news reports and abnormality. Simply not being able to socialize with their friends inside and out of school is likely to be contributing to negative future outcomes. Add in the aforementioned economic impacts affecting their parents and the result is a terrifying cocktail or tribulations for any child to endure without incurring some kind of emotional baggage.

This is why, as we enter a phase of the fight against COVID we have so longed for – vaccinations and beginning the recovery process – it is crucial for our leaders to be cognizant of the profound importance of shoring up economic stability. Getting people back to work and out of debt will be the foundation to any successful recovery.

We are eager for incoming Governor McKee to be empowered with the full powers of his office to begin implementing Rhode Island’s strategy for vaccinating our populace and beginning the arduous task of rebuilding our economy. It is a monumental task, no doubt, but our society has proven it has the fortitude to endure great hardship. Now is the time for calm and direct leadership to emulate that resiliency and get us to the end of this tunnel.

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