How do you think the world will be like after this pandemic? Closer to home, what will we become as a people, as a nation, after this tragedy?
It is understandable that much of the focus now is on the prevention and treatment of the disease. However, it is also equally important to consider the longer-term psychological effect and collective trauma of COVID-19.
When a major event is witnessed or experienced by a large group of people and affect how they think, feel, and act, and even results to social changes and cultural shift, collective trauma ensues. Events such as wars, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, economic upheavals, and pandemics cause collective trauma.
Our country has had major events which significantly influenced our policies, our sense of identity as a nation, and our collective and individual fears. Some that comes to mind are the natural disasters that we went through such as typhoons with varying degrees of devastation, the many earthquakes we experienced and other natural disasters.
There were also political upheavals that shaped our nation’s policies and laws such as the Marcos regime and the EDSA revolution, armed conflict and terrorism in Mindanao, and many others. Our exposure to these events, directly or through social media affect our feelings of vulnerability and heightened vigilance.
This pandemic is a global event. And this will surely result in both individual and collective mental health effects which gets all the more confounded by the social and economic impact of the pandemic.
Unlike the other traumatic events that we went through which were relatively limited in its duration (e.g. 7.2 earthquake), this pandemic poses more long-term threats on our mental health although may be less dramatic.
Obviously, we are all still in a state of mental distress. With the recent spike of cases in our province, there is a renewed sense of fear and vigilance among our people. Expectedly, even after we have been inoculated by the vaccine, others would continue to experience distress in the form of acute stress and posttraumatic stress disorders.
Collective trauma may be passed on to generations through the collective memory that we form. I remember stories from my grandparents how they survived World War 2. Even if they were very young at that time, the fearful experiences of their parents transcended their individual memories and eventually cascaded to us their descendants.
Can we do something about this? Can we mitigate the collective trauma of Covid 19?
Yes, we can. Firstly, let us understand how this experience affect us at the individual level. Our quarantine policies, isolation, loss of jobs and opportunities, and fear of getting infected truly give rise to anxiety, depression, acute stress and even posttraumatic stress disorders. Addressing these concerns are important.
At the collective level, let us begin by limiting our media exposure. Research has found out that people who always follow the news report more posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms than those who do not.
Let us stay connected with others. While we are limited to do face-to-face interaction, we can still connect through technology. But as much as we could, let us be creative in our approaches in maintaining our meetings with friends, family members, and co-workers.
Let us only listen to trustworthy information. We are able to gauge better and make accurate assessments of danger when we are provided with reliable information. There are so many fake and doubtful news and information going around. Make the choice of sticking to trustworthy sources.
Make use of available mental health resources in your area. We already have in-placed mechanisms to address the mental health concerns of our people. We have 27/7 crisis hotlines and well-meaning groups who provide access to services of mental health professionals for free.
A traumatic event leaves an indelible mark in our psyche individually and collectively. It affects how we view ourselves and the world. It is potentially damaging but it also offers opportunity to grow. We really do not know exactly yet the ultimate impact of this pandemic psychologically, but we sure hope that it will all the more increase our resilience as a people and help us bind ourselves together.