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  • Writer's pictureAmelia Gillis, LMHC

Collective Trauma: COVID 19

The Realization of a Pandemic

The week before life begin to change, I was on a boat sailing to the Bahamas. I was so excited to be out with my girls. I remember being on the boat and someone mentioning something about a major shutdown. I didn't pay attention to what they were saying because that just seemed bonkers. I had on the news, before the trip, about a possible outbreak and that everyone should be aware of it's dangers. Yet, I didn't pay attention to that because nothing like that could possibly happen in America. My mindset had me thinking that America was exempt from most things. How tragic was this thinking.

Well, when I got back, I got a message that we didn't have to report back to work because there was an investigation into what the media outlets were discussing. Again, I paid no attention to the validity of the news. I just thought, hey, I have more vacation time.

After those days passed, one morning I woke up and life started to change. This was the beginning of 14 months of pandemic life. All news outlets were speaking of a virus called, COVID-19. Needless to say, I never went back to work for several months. Our lives were no longer the same. This is when I realized the pandemic was real and man was that a shock to my system.

The Required Changes

No one knew the impact that this virus and pandemic would have on the lives of many. Life that we knew changed fast. Many people loss their jobs, loss loved ones, loss their ability to connect with others, and even their sense of security. There was so much uncertainty. The world was in quarantine, and that meant masks, limited movement, limited food & supplies, and so much more.

The Pandemic's Impact

No one was exempt from the impact of the pandemic. Millions had endured a year of grief, anxiety, isolation, and rolling trauma. Those months filled with uncertainty, fear, confusion, and so many other emotions. Daily many watch as the numbers increased and the death toll was rising daily. Mental health professionals were being called upon at a higher rate. What they were realizing is that the COVID-19 pandemic had a major mental effect on us all.

The Impact of Collective Trauma

Many have asked if we are fully aware of the impact and trauma caused by this time period. It is important that as a society we individually accessed how the pandemic has impacted our lives individually. We all have experienced what is known as collective trauma.

Collective trauma refers to the psychological upheaval that is shared by a group of people who all experience an event. Some examples include, the Great Depression, September 11, World War II, to name a few. With this type of trauma as a society, it is key to consider the lasting impacts such as increased individual and collective fear, identity crisis, heightened vigilance for new threats, and even increased feelings of vulnerability. Hope for a future can create anxiety in many. This can call psychological distress. As a result, this can cause reactions of panic, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, stress, grief, and PTSD.

According to research, psychological distress is common following a trauma. Therefore, the mental impact of the pandemic remains to be seen.

Action Steps

While we all weathered the same storm (the pandemic) that doesn’t mean that we are all the same boat. However, it is important that each individual takes the time to access the mental impact it has played in their life. People are at greater risk when they don't access the threat of an experience. Even if you are not able to visit a mental health professional in person, which is highly recommended to support the assessment, there are other resources available.

Remember, you are not a superhero. You are not invincible. You are intentionally human. Therefore, having emotions after a pandemic is a part of being a human. Yet, addressing those emotions are imperative before those emotions address you.

*Please be sure to visit our resources page to find crisis hotlines that are available to assist with mental assessments.


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