Growing up hearing the term hero was an honor bestowed to those who face danger and adversity head on. During my time in the military Hero had two different connotations depending on the tone and context. In one scenario it’s usually some Command Sergeant Major that is reprimanding some young private for walking on the grass. I heard a loud thunderous yelling across the parking lot “A You Hero, Come Here!!” translation Hey dumbass get over here. The second time you heard it is in a low somber voice when a fellow Soldier dies in combat. He/She was a Hero and they paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Hero is now associated with death. This time it’s not military service members, it’s civilians. They are your hospital workers, doctors, nurses, cashiers, post men and other “essential” employees who hold the country’s economy on their underpaid backs. It wasn’t until I came across a post on my Facebook the term hero changed it’s meaning.
“Hero is the word we use to describe people who are going to die because we cannot be bothered to protect them and whose work we do not want to do.”
While various states are ramping up to open despite the countless warnings from every specialist with a Dr. and MD associated with their names, politicians are more concerned with the economy then human American lives on American soil. Then I saw a posts regarding the suicide of a New York doctor. Before I could put words down I mentioned who was checking on the mental health of the people who not by choice are required to service people who couldn’t care. Their reckless behavior is putting these people at risk of contracting the disease.
It’s pretty infuriating how folks are in the streets protesting about getting a haircut or sitting in a bar. Not protesting over the fact there are folks who couldn’t pay their mortgage and or rent for April and the average person is expected to make $1200 stretch for six weeks. In high cost of living locations this is a whole new level of hardship. So where did the dollar amount $1200 come from? That is one months wage before taxes are paid at the minimum wage rate. How many people with “How am I supposed to live off this?” Oh the irony.
It is amazing over a year ago professions that’s currently keeping society from completely collapsing were looked down upon as being less than. People really judge your value as a person, by your profession. How a crisis and pandemic can change so much. Now they are the glue holding society together. Essential Workers, Healthcare providers are on the frontlines keeping what semblance of society from completely collapsing and turning into a scene from The Walking Dead or any Dystopian story from becoming reality. So who are these heroes risking their lives every day? They are your cashiers at grocery stores, postal workers, delivery persons, truck drivers, hospital personnel. They are the professions people felt were not deserving of a livable wage.
Contrary to what the media publishes, calling them heroes and saints the reality is a stark contrast. Many are held hostage, forced to work in conditions without any personal protective gear or PPE. Having personally spoke to some of these “hostages” many hate the situation they are forced in. These jobs do not have paid sick leave despite many of these businesses being billion-dollar corporations getting bailed out by the government. Many of these employees can’t quit because it’s their only source of income for their families. They are held hostage because they need their jobs and quitting during this pandemic is a luxury many of these people cannot afford.
These poor people are subjected to crap work conditions and abuse from customers, patients and in some cases their employers. So who is looking out for their mental health? Who is addressing their resolve during these stressful times? It’s no secret resiliency and mental health is a weak point for a lot of people. Before this pandemic the number people discussing depression, anxiety, and suicide was at the forefront. The number of suicides were climbing, addiction to prescription painkillers was a topic of discussion. Even though the media is consumed with the latest COVID-19 related news. The issues surrounding mental health are still there.
It’s not just Medical and Essential Personnel. Over 22 million people lost their jobs with no certainty of having employment. The stress of wondering how bills are going to be paid, if businesses will survive lingers over everyone’s head. Many don’t remember prior to the pandemic suicide rate was on the climb. Stress, anxiety, depression was the topic of a lot of conversations. These issues didn’t go away. For some it’s coupled an added layer of stress and violence.
So who is checking the checker? Who is looking out for those who are looking for the countless people infected everyday due to their willful and conscious disregard for public safety? The workload and risks have increased. Without a healthy outlet and support system to connect with in person it’s going to continue to get worse. Mental burnout among these valuable workers will be at an all time high. Especially among Healthcare professionals. There is no way seeing that much death in a short amount of time will not take a toll on someone’s mental health. Coupled longer hours and crass people protesting about getting a haircut or a drink at a bar. It’s maddening to not want to scream at folks for the complete lack and disregard for their fellow Americans.
Instead of doing our part in reducing the spread to ease the stress and fear of infection it’s getting worse. Showing the human element and toll this pandemic has taken needs to be shown. Don’t sugar coat the dozens of people dying daily at every medical facility across the country. People need to see morgues are filled to the max with bodies. The hospital floors filled with sick and dying people unable to die surrounded by loved ones. The more you humanize the effects of this pandemic, hopefully it will reduce the number of political leaders and influencers from being comfortable with the idea of sacrificing so many human lives in the name of economy.
It doesn’t take a specialist in Mental Health to see how damaging this is for anyone’s self care and mental health. If anything, becoming aware and doing our part isn’t short of free.
1. Be a decent human being to the people who are working these jobs. Screaming at the stock clerk because they are out of toilet paper isn’t going to help the situation. Screaming at any hospital staff isn’t going to speed up your care.
2. Staff home if you have too. Minimize your need to go hangout at your neighborhood grocery store because you are bored. A lot of people have forgotten there is a 5–10 day window where you are highly contagious without having symptoms.
3. If the separation and quarantine is taking a toll on your mental health. Talk to someone. Lost your job you are not all there are 22million other people in the same boat as you. Is the job becoming stressful, but can’t leave? Talk to someone you can trust to be your sound board. Crisis hotlines is your next alternative.
4. Try to rest and get at least 30 minutes of exercise. Stress will have a toll on the body coupled with lack of sleep and poor health. Taking walks, going for a run will help clear your mind. If possible devote a few hours focused on self and personal care. Focus on the things you can control. Not taking care of yourself will put you at risk of getting sick.
This will be over. If possible check on your friends and family. Be kind to the individual risking their lives to service the economy. That haircut, salon trip can wait. This will pass.