Mental health throughout the nation and the world has been adversely affected thanks to the ongoing coronavirus.

One expert on the subject said people who have lost members of their families, struggle with the loss, but add to that the responsibilities of carrying on with life.

“Death of loved ones due to COVID-19 is catastrophic for those left behind,” said Linda Butcher, MA, LMFT, psychologist for Therapy Solutions 4 U. “For some, there is no time to grieve. Work demands, financial pressures, and family responsibilities can be unrelenting. But sooner or later, grief will demand attention.”

She asks for others to be on the lookout for tale-tale signs of clinical depression in loved ones who are overwhelmed with the emotional burdens caused by COVID-19, which took hold of the country last February and March. 

“Pay attention when someone displays anger, seems to lose interest in typically enjoyed activities, cries even when they can’t explain why, and/or is depressed for longer than two weeks,” said Butcher. “Watch for changes in appetite or weight and quality of sleep.”

Nearing the end of 2020, there still may be other signs as well, like difficulty in focus and concentration or fatigue and loss of energy. 

“Others may experience a decrease in self-worth or feel guilty for what happened to their loved one without a basis for justification,” said Butcher. She classifies this behavior as “inappropriate guilt.” She encourages everyone to pay attention to their loved ones and take action when someone expresses suicidal thoughts. 

Some of the clients Butcher has seen respond to these challenges better than others.  

“Well-grounded couples often grow stronger under challenging circumstances because they already attend to each other’s emotional needs well,” said Butcher. “Less stable couples may find their abilities to cope with difficulties already being experienced have now been worsened by the extra stressors the pandemic has imposed upon them.”

She acknowledges that the frustration and anger associated with COVID-19 can result in domestic violence. 

“Efforts to attend to each other’s emotional needs may fail more often due primarily to poor communication skills and poor conflict-resolution skills,” said Butcher. “These factors may lead to mounting frustration and anger, unresolved arguments, and tragically in some instances, result in domestic violence.” 

So how are people coping now that the coronavirus has been dominating the Wharton County living for nearly 10 months? Butcher enumerates several possibilities.

“Most clients are discovering their strengths and the benefits of joining together to reach out in their communities. Sometimes the best coping strategy is to help someone else in need. Some clients are leaning into their spirituality for comfort and strength,” she said. “Others are turning to exercise, meditation, better quality and quantity of sleep, and better self-care overall as ways of reducing their stress levels. When families take time to interactively play together, they build stronger relationship bonds between them and the whole family benefits. In other words, give the screens a rest and focus on each other.”

Some people are more resilient than others and will like handle the challenges of COVID-19 better than the less resilient members of society.

“A resilient person is one who accepts that life is filled with unpredictability and accepts that change is inevitable,” said Butcher. “Resilient people choose to respond to life’s stressors by embracing an attitude of tolerance, flexibility and adaptation.”

She said anyone can become resilient. She gives the key in the following words:

“Anyone can become resilient. It is simply a choice we make to reject fear and stand firm in our belief that we are capable of changing how we think and behave if we really want to on any given day and in any given circumstance. Yes, even in the midst of a pandemic. Courage is experiencing fear and doing what must be done anyway. Our frontline workers are living examples of courage and resilience. If they can be courageous and resilient, so can you and I. Let’s be courageous and resilient together.”

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