“It’s a reminder of who God is and what we are not. We have to trust in his providence to be able to, not just survive this pandemic, but actually to be able to thrive.”
I think this is something we may be hearing more about in the weeks to come — and it’s an area where the Church could fill a tremendous need. We are facing trials in our world that many of us could not have foreseen just a few months ago. And there will be a greater need for a helping hand, a sympathetic ear, a ready shoulder, a compassionate voice — and the Gospel message of faith, hope and love.
Over a quarter of young adults aged 18-24 have seriously contemplated suicide over the last month, a new Centers for Disease Control survey has found.
The report, titled “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020” was published on August 14. The data was collected from adults across the United States in late June.
Tommy Tighe, a marriage and family counselor and host of the Catholic mental health podcast “Saint Dymphna’s Playbook,” told CNA that he found the data to be “really heartbreaking, though expected.”
After months of extended lockdowns across the country, and anxieties about the coronavirus pandemic, Tighe said “our baseline level of anxiety has gone up during this experience.”
“Trying to live with this higher baseline has certainly impacted our ability to tolerate frustration and stress.”
According to the CDC, “40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%).”
Those figures rose considerably among certain groups. Nearly three out of four adults aged 18-24 and slightly more than half of adults aged 25-44 reported “at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom” in the survey. Among Hispanics, 52.1% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental health symptom related to the pandemic, as well as two-thirds of respondents who had less than a high school diploma.
Several weeks ago, my friend Sean Gallagher wrote about this from a Catholic perspective in The Criterion:
Three mental health clinicians who work out of a Catholic understanding of the human person recently spoke with The Criterion about how the pandemic and the gradual reopening of society poses psychological and emotional challenges for many people. At the same time, they pointed to signs of hope that can be gained by the wisdom of the Catholic faith and its time-tested spiritual treasures.
John Cadwallader, Jonathan Chamblee and Pauline Kattady offer their Catholic-informed therapy through Central Psychological Services in Indianapolis.
For many, the pandemic has been marked by a sharp separation from other people. This continues to be the case for older people and those with complicating health conditions.
Cadwallader said such social distancing can sometimes bring to the surface for some people psychological and emotional challenges that might have been more hidden in the past.
“With the separation and silence, a lot of things that are in our heads and in our hearts are rising up in some ways,” he said. “Some of that has been the realization that we’re not ultimately in control. We’re actually utterly dependent upon God at all times.
“That’s something which is always true. It’s a reminder of who God is and what we are not. We have to trust in his providence to be able to, not just survive this pandemic, but actually to be able to thrive. There’s actually a lot of goodness coming out of this for a lot of people.”
Such social separation has been an aspect of Catholic spirituality for more than 1,500 years, noted Chamblee. He pointed to monks who lived in deserts in Egypt and the Middle East starting in the late third century.
Living apart from the rest of society “created for them a time for personal growth,” Chamblee said. So, he said, the separation caused by the pandemic “can be an opportunity for us to recognize certain strengths and weaknesses within ourselves that we can capitalize on and work through.”
Know someone who needs help?
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is: 1-800-273-8255. Or visit the website.