What on earth is happening? Trying to make sense of the pandemic.
Paul Walker, Trust Chaplain reflects on current events.
The current coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19) is the first pandemic to affect every part of the world since the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918/19. Restricting the way we live our lives and affecting global economies, this is an unprecedented situation and we are all having to evolve to navigate our way through these unchartered waters without the comfort of being able to physically come together.
We all live with basic assumptions on how the world works. These develop based on our experience and culture. During difficult periods people may find their belief systems are challenged.
Because there has not been a pandemic on this scale for over a hundred years, a situation like this was unthinkable. It is natural that we feel shaken and unsure about the future.
Over the coming months, many of the things we believe to be true will change. This will be different from individual to individual and will be a slow process which may change how we view the world and how we live our lives.
Some may lose their faith. This could be their faith in God, karma, science, capitalism, socialism or those closest to them. Others may find new things to believe in.
To help us manage it is important that we support one another; even if we can’t meet, there are lots of ways and digital technologies to help us connect.
Things to consider:
- Everyone approaches things from different perspective.
- We all need space to ask questions and share emotions
- People’s beliefs may change daily – this is a natural attempt to make sense of it all
- It is not always helpful to condemn people. Being honest about what we are thinking and accepting others can help us to make sense of what is happening.
- Blame is dangerous. Throughout history plagues have led to blame which have resulted in the persecution of innocent people.
- What is happening now will pass. The world may be different. It may even be better.
The Middle Way
The Buddha talks about the middle way. This is avoiding extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence. Don’t starve yourself, don’t overeat. The middle way can be used in every aspect of life and boils down to what we might call moderation. We need to heed the middle way more than ever now.
On the one side are the deniers. You’ll have heard them: ‘Oh it’s only flu’, ‘It’s not as bad as they say’, ‘Nothing’s going to stop me meeting with my friends’. But we hear the statistics every day we know that mixing with people risks lives On the other side are the ‘catastrophisers’: ‘We’re all doomed’, ‘We’re going to die’, ‘This is the worst thing that has ever happened’. Well it’s certainly not that, the Black Death of 1347 – 1351 is estimated to have killed between 30% and 60% of Europe’s population. We know that with Covid 19 the vast majority do recover fully. The best we can do is keep informed, think about the best case scenario as well as the worst and do what the scientists recommend. When people are struggling they may become extreme deniers or extreme catastrophisers. That will be increased by people struggling with their mental health.
Many of you reading this will have a history of mental illness and in the months ahead this country is going to need your expertise. Lots of people are going to struggle massively with the isolation and this might lead to mental ill-health. These are people who never imagined they would suffer in this way. Many of you know exactly what that looks like and how it feels. But you also know that people survive – you have. Maybe through the College we could start telling stories of survival through isolation, survival through mental ill health and get these stories out to our neighbours. What do you think?
I would like us to start working on the mental health fightback. So here is my email firstname.lastname@example.org contact me if you have anything you would like me to write about, contact me if you have personal stories that you think would help.