Does COVID-19 Force A Choice Between Medical Health vs. Mental Health?

May 5th, 2020

COVID-19 has instilled fear in everyone worldwide, and drastic measures are being taken to ensure the highest level of medical safety and keep this dreaded disease from spreading. The basic tenet behind these measures is known as social distancing – i.e. stay at home alone unless you need to shop for the basics to survive, and then plan carefully so you can get in, get what you need and get right back out and home again.

In the U.S., some states are on forced lockdown and some are under stringent guidelines. In Nebraska, we are part of the latter group. The brave folks who are still regularly in their workplace are the ones who supply our necessities (e.g. emergency healthcare, food and essential supplies). These folks are on the front line. They risk their health to ensure we have the essentials.

I have recently seen some vitriolic posts on Facebook with people preaching that others are endangering the essential workers by lingering in stores, shopping for non-essentials. These posts vilify anyone who wants to buy a hammer unless the walls of their home are literally falling down around them.

On the other hand, there is a great movement to protect the mental health of everyone who has taken to ground and is obeying all of the rules. There is a huge fear that folks forced to become hermits will suffer from this forced reclusiveness. Articles are cropping up everywhere with suggestions of how we can all stay sane and this morning a wise man shared this simple thought with me, “A five-minute walk around the hardware store will save me from jumping out a third-floor window.” For some folks that is absolutely true, they need to get out and walk through a familiar surrounding that isn’t their own home. Does that five-minute walk make them a dangerous menace to all the essential workers in the store? Maybe not, but a lot of five-minute walks do add up.

Add to that equation that some of these essential workers are just grateful to be working and still earning money when so many aren’t. Doesn’t that five-minute walk around the hardware store help our economy, the one that is in imminent danger of crumbling over this whole pandemic?

What is that fine balance between keeping yourself medically safe – away from others – while keeping your mental health and possibly helping the economy?

As professional communicators, we are skilled at articulating complex points of view. We can even make it look easy. The challenge of pitting physical health against emotional/mental health is daunting and one that would give us pause, but if you’re faced with articulating a difficult and complex dichotomy of ideas, maybe this issue of Thinking can help you think it through.