The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that started in the United States in 1929 and lasted for 43 long months. This is the biggest example of how rapidly and intensely the global economy can decline. The Great Depression had a tremendous social and psychological impact affecting thousands of people across the world. Most were so demoralised by the hard times that they lost their will to survive, thus increasing the suicide rate by 30 percent between 1928 and 1932, and thousands of people were being admitted to state mental health hospitals.
What we must be cognizant of is that with our current pandemic, we are also heading towards a surge in mental health problems and disorders owing to the vast economic impact that this too shall have.
During the Great Depression, merely keeping families together was a problem as people lost their jobs, homes and livelihood. Couples were postponing their weddings and some even their divorces or separation as they just could not afford to do either. This depression had affected children the most as they lost out on schooling and education; some were forced to grow up too soon and take on adult roles in their families, start jobs, earn or provide. Some were subjected to severe trauma and abuse and witnessed family disputes and tensions. Many men out of mere frustrations fled their homes and travelled aimlessly around in search of work.
Unemployment amidst this current situation is on a rise with thousands receiving pay cuts, leave without pay or loss of jobs. This is also creating anxiety, fear, shame and embarrassment amongst the men in families, which in turn, is leading to marital conflicts, aggression, abuse, depression, increase in addictions with alcohol, cigarettes or screen time and depression with suicidal ideation.
Low self-esteem, self-confidence, emasculation and humiliation are on the rise as well with lots of young men going through a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Surprisingly, online addiction, dating sites, pornography and gaming in these times have also increased leading to more frustrations and mental health concerns. Online indefinitely has increased with this lockdown situation causing rifts and turmoil with relationships.
During this time, we cannot state that our children are the most important in this situation. It is us as individuals, spouses and parents first that become priorities in today’s times. Our children and the next generation are not going to be okay if we are not okay first. With no answers, the uncertainties and insecurities, confinement and social distancing, we at some point may all be grappling with mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety, phobias, OCD, difficulties with sleeping patterns or eating habits or getting negative, dark thoughts with suicidal ideation.
With this pandemic and an almost global lockdown comes a snowball effect and an aftermath of tremendous human consequences. In the last few weeks, we have seen a significant impact on financial markets, businesses, start-ups, daily wage workers, migrant labourers, international corporates, and vulnerable industries such as tourism, hospitality, travel and manufacturing – all crashing. We don’t know what the future holds and how to bare these losses.
When one loses a job, it is initially received with a lot of denial, shock and disbelief. It is normal to feel angry, hurt, let down or betrayed. One feels that they’ve lost everything – which leads to a lot of insecurity and panic, anxiety and fears for the future, leaving one with hundreds of unanswered questions.
But no matter how devastating our losses seem at times such as these, there will be hope. With time and the right coping techniques, one can come to terms with these setbacks, ease the stress, anxiety and move on constructively to generate positive outcomes and solutions.
This is a temporary phase, that we are all part of, and this too shall pass. Spend this quality time with family and people that matter to you the most. Stay connected and speak to mentors, friends and peers to brainstorm, innovate, deliberate and plan for the future.
Introspection, reflection, spirituality and mindfulness are most useful at times such as these too. Make the best of this present moment and find the smallest of things in life to feel grateful for, that in other times, we so take for granted.
The story is an authored piece by Dr. Zirak Marker, Sr. Psychiatrist & Advisor Mpower