The Feeding of Two Pandemics

My professional practice has been uncommonly busy for over six months. Starting two days before Passover when the world became universally aware of the Corona virus pandemic there has been a dramatic rise in anxiety, depression and a host of other emotional and psychological issues. The isolation ordered increased fear and domestic violence to abnormally high levels. Since then so many more people who were initially calm and cooperative with public health guidelines have become increasingly anxious and depressed and it is no longer just by the virus but by the continuing need for isolating, the financial struggles that seem to have no end and also by a fear that our countries are no longer states of democracy but in a state of chaos.

Outside of the extended hours in my consultation room and the middle of the night calls and texts from anxious and desperate souls it seems that most everyone is off balance. We recently logged a 150-fold increase in phone calls for assistance from people fearful of contracting the disease or who have lost family members to Corona or who simply have never been alone for so long. Those who were marginal are really beginning to lose it.
Most everyone needs and longs for a sense of security that is presently nowhere to be found. Elderly individuals are isolated. Younger people are finding it nearly impossible to find a job or even date. Parents of young children do not see a clear path for their future and certainly not the future of their children. And the increased use of social media is more likely a dangerous distraction than the allegedly profound and healthy shift in social interaction and education approaches being touted.

My 9-year-old granddaughter loved being back in school seeing her friends despite the fact that she said it was “sort of like being in jail with the (plexi)glass in front of me and on the sides.” Children need to be among their peers in a safe learning environment. We cannot get there though if there are too many cases of Covid19 in the schools and they have to shut down.

Last month Scientific American, for the first time in its 175-year history supported a presidential candidate in response to how the current American administration has mishandled the virus and science in general, and it was not the current Trump administration that the editorial board supports. Similarly, in an editorial published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine on October 8 the editors declared that the current leadership has turned a crisis into a tragedy. They concluded “When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent.”

All the assumptions about what we thought of as normal have changed and we will be moving, albeit slowly and haltingly, to a new normal. Unfortunately, we do not have the leadership that can provide us a strong sense of guidance to help us all get there. Not politically and in some communities not religiously. Nowhere is this more evident in certain Hareidi communities. There are far too many self-righteous Hareidi individuals with no training in health care who are bristling at the necessary restrictions to contain, not eliminate, Corona. They accuse the knowledgeable, the professionals in health care and epidemiology of being anti-Semites or worse, Nazi like. Their critiques of the professionals whose goal is to save lives and are well intentioned, caring and experienced are couched in pseudo-religious diatribes. And there are some professionals who accommodate to them, pardoning and excusing their outrageous behaviors. But there is no excuse for not wearing a mask. There is no excuse to allow yourself to infect others.

Relying on self-appointed experts or worse, individuals with no knowledge at all who question basic facts add to the fallacies that these leaders rely on. Denial of science is an art form to some. Unfortunately, it is not easy to refute. Conspiracy theories and questioning the motives of health care providers are rampant. There is an illogic to all this that feeds the worst in us all. Not least of which is the fact that if we do not stand up and accept scientific reality, we are not just going to increase the death toll but contributing to even worse antisemitism. And while Corona virus is a health pandemic the virulence of antisemitism has been increasing over the last four years and has the potential to be even more frighteningly dangerous. It is by far time to follow basic rules of public health and to silence those who are unwilling, unaware and indifferent to the harm that they are promulgating. If we do not, we face a far more severe crisis then Corona.

About the Author
Dr Michael Salamon ,a fellow of the American Psychological Association, is a 2018 APA Presidential Citation Awardee for his 'transformative work in raising awareness of the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse". He is the founder and director of ADC Psychological Services in New York and the author of numerous articles, several psychological tests and books including "The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures" (Urim Publications) and "Every Pot Has a Cover" (University Press of America). His newest book is called "Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims."
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