Emotional Response

Lifeline WA recognises that each disaster is unique and generates emotional responses specific to that experience, but if you’re struggling to cope in the aftermath of COVID-19 then taking learnings from previous disasters could offer some helpful insights.

Here is some relevant information on emotional responses to previous disasters that could be helpful in understanding your reaction to COVID-19.

Delving into the history

Humans have encountered and shown resilience through many disasters throughout history. The Cambridge University Press published the journal article ‘Can we expect an increased suicide rate due to COVID-19?’. In the article, psychiatrist Patrick Devitt discusses the potential effects of COVID-19 on mental well-being and suicidal ideation. He draws on data from wars, violence, natural disasters, epidemics, and economic recessions, to apply what we have learned from those to the current pandemic.

Applying a suicide theory to the COVID-19 pandemic

Although it has been reported that domestic violence and alcohol use has increased during COVID-19, the author suggests that we are not yet fully aware of what the impact will be on our mental health and suicidal ideation.

Emile Durkheim (1897) offered the first theory of suicide, suggesting that we should consider suicidal ideation in light of social context alongside mental illness. Applying Durkheim’s suicide theory to the current pandemic, we can see some social connectedness in people bonding over the COVID-19 circumstances, which is arguably a protective factor.

Risk factors and protective factors

In general, we bounce back after experiencing adversity, which is how we build resilience. However, disasters and their economic impacts tend to have an adverse impact on our mental well-being.

Economic recession appears to be a major risk factor, thus the measures the Australian Government has taken to keep people employed and support businesses are protective. However, not everyone benefits from these measures. Patrick Devitt suggests that our health care workers, the elderly, and people who have experienced an adverse economic impact may be affected more. He says the mental health system could take additional steps towards supporting these groups.

If you feel the impact of the circumstances around COVID-19, please know that you are not the only one. It is understandable that you could feel increased levels of stress, anxiety, concern, loneliness, and other feelings. Please consider taking a compassionate approach towards yourself and reach out to people you trust and/or professional support to provide you with the care you need. Connecting with others can be of support, to discuss what you are feeling and thinking or solely to drink a cup of coffee or tea together or go for a walk, as a few examples that could be of support for you.

As a coping strategy, you could attempt to accept the feelings and emotions that come up for you so they will dissipate once you have acknowledged them and felt compassion for your experiences. If you experience your distress as overwhelming or are considering asking for support, the information sheet or workbook about distress intolerance may be of support for you. You can access them here.

Also remember that Lifeline’s 13 11 14 crisis support line is available 24/7.

Image Credit: Photo by Orkun Azap on Unsplash