Open Mic: Isolation and Connection

Pandemic, lack of leadership take a mental toll

We need to start talking about the effects the pandemic is having on our mental health before we have a collective nervous breakdown.

As the pandemic drags on, what I’m most worried about is how we all seem to be putting on the same smiling social media airs, acting as if everything is okay. As if we haven’t been living under a constant strain on the spirit for over a year and a half.

We’ve had no guide through this time—no leader has stepped up to offer a clear view of the challenges we face, while relating to our worries and struggles. 

We’ve feared for not only our lives, but our jobs and our homes. Many of those worries could have been removed by a caring government, but ours has shown a sad inefficiency at taking care of its citizens.

This has left us—the general, doing-our-best us—in a state of uneasy panic. During the quarantine, out of necessity, we pulled away from all we loved. For months, our friends and families were suddenly only accessible through computer screens. But for each other, we pushed on.

We were strong for the ones we held dear, who were also dealing with a period of isolation we were all ill-prepared for.

Now, as we return to society, it is important for each of us, individually and collectively, to slow down and admit, “I struggled.”

If there is a silver lining to be found through all this trauma, it is that—for once—we all gained a shared experience.

We can all reach out to each other now and open up, knowing that if we say “That was hard,” everyone will understand.

The pain is now a connection, a bond, that quietly exists between us. This does not change the loss, but it will help us step forward once we’ve truly come back together.

I look forward to that day.

Michael Johnson is a resident of Santa Rosa and serves on the Sonoma County Mental Health Board. The views expressed above are his individually and not meant to speak for the board itself.

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