Updated: Sep 10, 2020
Most of us have heard the term domino effect, but what does this mean in the context of mental health?
A current example of a domino effect is what people are going through during the pandemic. For people without a preexisting mental health condition, the domino effect of the pandemic has been something like this (not necessarily in this order): fear of the pandemic, quarantine, isolation, loss of job or income, worry about loved ones, coping with death of loved ones, fears of the future, fears of losing a place to live, anxiety, depression, relationship problems, even contemplation of suicide or violence. The pandemic was the first domino to fall, and it was so large, so terrifying, possessing the capacity to devastate people in so many ways. The aforementioned series of events has been so overwhelming and not like many things that we have experienced before in our lifetimes.
If the dominoes crashed in "normal" people with no preexisting mental illness, you can imagine that for those of us who have suffered with panic attacks, clinical depression, generalized anxiety, and those who were already living in poverty and barely able to put food on the table, the devastation has been like an earthquake on the highest end of the Richter scale. People who were already struggling to cope with everyday life because of their mental illness or poverty or substance abuse issues are now sinking deeper under water, and it is a terrible thing. Heartbreaking, in fact.
So what do we do if we ourselves are suffering greatly from the domino effects of this pandemic or know that someone we love, know, or care about who was already mentally ill is becoming more unstable, more fragile? Especially when we ourselves may also be feeling overwhelmed? First, do not pretend or try to hide your suffering by putting up a facade. Reach out to talk or text or chat with those in your support system, and help someone else who is sinking to do so and assist them with getting help. It is also good to acknowledge that it is human to have a range of feelings during this time -- anger, sadness, helplessness, anxiety, etc. Reach out for help. Contact a doctor or mental health provider. If you already have a mental health provider, let them know with great honesty how you have been feeling. We are all in this together and can help each other.
If you are feeling extremely depressed or having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: 1-800-273-8255. There are counselors available to talk with you at any time if you feel overwhelmed. You can also go to your nearest emergency room. There is no reason to feel embarrassed or weak to ask for help!!