An Inside View of COVID-19 and Behavioral Health
July 8, 2020
By Tyler Arvig, PsyD, LP
Associate Medical Director
Over the past several months, my colleagues and I have been emphasizing the importance of behavioral health in the COVID-19 pandemic. I, in particular, have argued that for many, the psychological impacts are likely to outweigh the medical ones. As of this writing, I am approaching 10 days in isolation due to a personal diagnosis of COVID-19, and can now say with confidence that the psychological impacts are indeed significant. There are hundreds of thousands who have been, are, or will be in the exact spot I am right now. Are we doing what we can to support our workforce in their behavioral health needs?
As someone who has been fairly well informed about COVID-19 from the beginning, I would like to think that I was well prepared for the emotional impact, but that was wishful thinking. I was, for a moment, irrationally panicked about my own health. Then I was scared; not for me, but for my family. If they got sick because I did, how would we manage? When I realized I was sick, isolation occurred immediately, but that left at least 3 days of potential for transmission to other people. Then I started rewinding the tape, thinking about all the “what ifs.” What if I infected someone who had a serious health condition? What if I infected my wife and she just hasn’t had symptoms yet? What if….
Then there are the practical considerations of isolation that are quite burdensome. Those around you are left to manage everything- to quarantine (away from you) in the house, and give up any and all activities for the next few weeks. For example, no soccer or meeting friends for my son. My wife has been left to figure out the shopping and attend to everyday things while not leaving the house.
Emotionally, there is a toll. Frustration over not seeing your loved ones, who are only feet away. Anger over the disruption in life and the unknown course of the virus. Fear about potentially infecting others. Difficulty staying focused on tasks and sadness about the situation itself; life had already been severely restricted for all of us, and now is being restricted even further. Confusion over the right and wrong things to be doing, even though it would seem we should all be quite well versed by this point.
As much as this has been difficult, I’m not complaining. At least, not in earnest. My symptoms are mild, my health is generally good, and my family is safe and non-symptomatic. We have a home that allows for physical distancing, and we have been showered with acts of kindness from our wonderful coworkers, family, and friends. This is about as good as a bad situation gets. Yet, even without significant physical health issues, the emotional effects are very present. For those who do have more severe medical complications, such effects are likely to be an order of magnitude greater.
We have hundreds of thousands of infected people, many of whom may be in your workforce, who were already managing a high level of distress yesterday, before getting sick. They need any behavioral health support you can provide. It need not be complex, or expensive, but it needs to be something. If you are unsure of how to provide it, consider contacting R3c. Problem-solving behavioral health issues in the workplace is what we do!
Ensure the physical and psychological safety and security of your organization. Talk to us.