Coping With the COVID-19 News for Those With Chronic or Mental Illness
By now, news of the spread of a novel coronavirus called COVID-19 is likely to have inundated your social networks and news outlets. Staying informed about public health crises is crucial, but as we discuss and report on them we may forget that these topics can be more sensitive to some than others. Whether or not you have been directly affected by this outbreak, you might be feeling impacted by media coverage about it — and that coverage may be especially difficult to process if you’re someone who experiences chronic or mental illness (or if you love some one who does).
As someone who is also struggling to process this pandemic, I want to specifically acknowledge and affirm those who deserve some extra support right now. Read them over if you are someone who needs to hear them, or share this post with someone in your life who does.
People with compromised immune systems:
I see you, support you and stand with you as you read news articles that continually emphasize your vulnerability in order to reassure others about their safety. Those of us who are able will do everything in our power to keep this virus from reaching you, and I vow to make sure you are fed and cared for in the case that staying home is the safest choice for you.
People who live with chronic illness:
Whether or not your illness makes you immunocompromised, I see you, support you and stand with you as you face concern about something else being added to your complex medical picture. If you’re feeling frustrated about the attention being given to this virus while you fight less publicized, less medically-validated conditions daily, know that your feelings are valid and understandable.
People who experience health-related anxiety:
I see you, support you and stand with you as you face an inescapable barrage of information about a topic that deeply frightens you. If you need to pay less attention to the news, stay off of social media or ask that I refrain from mentioning this topic to you, know that I respect your boundaries.
People with disabilities:
If the possibility of being placed in quarantine or a COVID-19 specific care facility poses a threat to your access needs, I see you, support you and stand with you. Know that I am ready and willing to advocate on your behalf or by your side.
People who experience hand-washing compulsions:
I see you, support you and stand with you as the media reinforces the importance of a behavior you work so hard to regulate every day. If you are experiencing an uptick in compulsions during this outbreak, know you are not alone and that your progress up to this point remains something to be proud of.
People who care for those at high risk:
If you are the caregiver of an individual with a disability, chronic illness or compromised immune system, I see you, support you and stand with you as you simultaneously balance concern for yourself and your loved one. Know that your own self-care is important, and there are people to talk to if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
People who experience agoraphobia:
I see you, support you and stand with you as your fears about leaving home are, perhaps for the first time, reinforced by others around you. If you’re finding it more difficult to leave your home as a result of this outbreak, know that I will not force you to do anything you are uncomfortable with, and you can resume making behavioral progress when the world feels a bit safer.
People who engage in hair or skin-picking behavior:
I see you, support you and stand by you if struggle to keep from touching your face, as is being continually instructed by health care officials. Know that there are other precautions you can take to keep you and your loved ones safe, and you are not alone in this experience.
People who can’t just wash their hands:
If you’re someone who cannot wash your hands easily or independently, I see you, support you and stand with you as you are continually told to do something that is inaccessible to you. If there is anything I can do to help you feel safer or more protected amidst this outbreak, know that I and others are here to provide you with support.
People who experience intrusive thoughts:
If you’re finding it difficult to silence intrusive thoughts about illness or death as a result of this outbreak, I see you, support you and stand with you. If you need to talk about these thoughts, know that I will not invalidate the pain you are experiencing.
People without health insurance:
If this virus poses a threat to your physical and financial security, I see you, support you and stand with you. Know that while I cannot provide you with the coverage you need, I will do all I can to avoid putting your health at risk. Let me know how else I can help you feel heard during this time.