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Experts Warn of 'Second Wave of Devastation'

“…attributable to mental health consequences of Covid-19.”

It has been just eight months since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in the United States, and already the virus has wreaked major damage in terms of mental health. And, according to a new research, the worst is yet to come. A new study published Monday in JAMA claims that a "second wave" of mental health and substance abuse disorder is mounting, and it could be devastating for society—especially those who are most at risk. Read on, and also don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus. 

"A Second Wave of Devastation is Imminent"

"A second wave of devastation is imminent, attributable to mental health consequences of Covid-19," Dr. Naomi Simon, Dr. Glenn Saxe and Dr. Charles Marmar, two authors of the study courtesy of New York University's Grossman School of Medicine, wrote. "The magnitude of this second wave is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system, leading to access problems, particularly for the most vulnerable persons." 

Researchers claim that deaths from suicide and drug overdoses will increase, especially amongst Black and Hispanic people, older adults, healthcare workers, and lower socioeconomic groups. 

"This magnitude of death over a short period of time is an international tragedy on a historic scale. This interpersonal loss is compounded by societal disruption," the authors continued. 

They point out that one of their biggest concerns is "the transformation of normal grief and distress into prolonged grief and major depressive disorder and symptoms of posttraumatic health disorder." According to their findings, prolonged grief impacts 10% of people who lose a loved one. And, considering that the average death results in the bereavement of nine people,  there are a projected 2 million bereaved individuals in the US and "thus, the effect of Covid-19 deaths on mental health will be profound."

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Renowned clinical therapist and consulting psychotherapist Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, Ph.D., author of Fragile Power: Why Having It All Is Never Enough has been treating patients around the world throughout the pandemic and tells Eat This, Not That! Health that these recent findings confirm what he has been seeing in his clinical practice. 

"Americans are drowning in the toxicity of COVID-19," he reveals. "As a clinician who treats patients holistically, I see how the pandemic has had a pernicious impact on every aspect of a person's life." 

"Intrapersonally, people are living in fear and uncertainty over their most fundamental human needs of safety and security. COVID-19, unlike other threats to a person's health, presents an invisible and ambiguous menace."

He explains that there are a variety of reasons for this, ranging from "confusion and outright denial over its causes and short and long term impact on a person's health" and interpersonal relationships with loved ones to financial disruption. There's also the political turmoil and arrest surrounding the virus.

"In the chaos and uncertainty that's ensured from this erosion of American values, we've broken off into hostile tribes and moved from visions of utopia to an acute fear of an imminent dystopia. In short, we are dealing with a personal crisis in the context of a national trauma," he continues. 

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The Solution is Multifaceted

The authors of the NYU study believe the solution to the COVID-induced mental health crisis is multifaceted and needs to include in influx of mental health funding, increased screening for those who are higher risk, and more focus put on treatment of people suffering from prolonged grief, depression, traumatic stress and substance abuse. 

"While overwhelming, I am hopeful we can find our way back and heal from the COVID-19 related devastation. To do so we must reground ourselves in personal and relational values that promote stability over chaos, unity over division, and hope rather than despair," adds Dr. Hokemeyer. 

From a clinical standpoint, these values are at the heart of what is known as the therapeutic alliance that the patient has with the clinician. "In order to heal, a patient must be seen, heard and valued by a clinician who is worthy of their trust. Once the patient is validated, they can then begin to internalize therapeutic techniques that enable them to manage their anxiety, depression and find healthy ways of dealing with the stress and dangers out in the world," he says. 

It's important to note that this relationship can occur outside of the therapeutic frame in intimate relationships with other human beings—friends, parents, spouses, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders and many others have provided this reparative frame for centuries. "It's time we re-engage with these relationships on a plane of dignity and respect, compassion and empathy, healing and hope," he says. "Once we reclaim these personal and relational values we can begin to move ourselves, our families and our country intentionally in a reparative direction." As for yourself, to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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