Has the Pandemic caused Collective Trauma?

I have been writing and surfacing research about how traumatic the pandemic has become to so many individuals. We have seen a rise in mental health issues and related concerns that have had devastating impact to our students, families and our culture. In some ways the pandemic has trapped us into a state of isolation, helplessness and unpredictability. That kind of stress over time does have an effect on our ability to regulate, communicate and maintain any sense of well-being. 

As we have attempted to describe this I think we all lack precision and even a logical mentality as to what causes what. A friend and colleague, Dr. Sandra Bloom speaks to the trauma category of emotional allostatic load as chronic stress over time. The idea of collective trauma makes a lot of sense since this has been an ongoing phenomenon with no end in sight.

In a recent interview hosted by Mary Louise Kelly on NPR she speaks with some experts on this topic including one of the founding fathers of trauma, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk. I think the interview is helpful to listen to or read so as to understand some perspectives on the severity of what is going on in our brains and our processing of this pandemic. We know individuals are attempting to cope with all kinds of measures to maintain stability. Some of the coping mechanisms are not healthy such as excessive use of drugs and alcohol. I get the sense that all of us are using our own coping skills in different ways and at different times in our life experiences.

Here is the link to this interview. I think it is helpful to hear or read what some of our trusted experts are saying about the chronic impact of our traumatic experiences as we work through COVID-19.

Coronavirus Pandemic. Earth wears a Paper Face Mask to protect itself from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

As we continue to work through the impact of all that has happened, perhaps we can normalize its effect by understanding that this has been a long-term set of circumstances. We all can employ effective coping strategies, some that utilize how connected we are to a world that feels very small. Many are having these discussions with friends, co-workers and family members.

I think the idea of the collective and ongoing pandemic impact may be helpful to understand and get clarity on what we are all fighting through. That perspective alone may be helpful. It is also helpful to have conversations with others to bring connection, relationship and potential hope that we can and will get through this pandemic.

Gerry Vassar


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