For those of us who communicate via text or messenger, “How are you?” is a common greeting. (Some people go shorthand: “how r u” but I am a stickler for proper spelling.) Even before Covid-19, it was a standard salutation, not requiring a reply that went beyond “Good and you.”
In the era of what the commercials and pundits call “these uncertain times,” the query takes on more meaning, and it goes beyond asking about physical health. The lock-down, social distancing, lost jobs, lives on hold, mounting death tolls, crumbling infrastructure, and an administration in the White House that is thrashing around like a drowning rat has taken a toll on our mental state as well. Boredom, fear, grief, and uncertainty can overwhelm us, and the aftershocks will be felt for a long time after.
Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, last month.
Online therapy company Talkspace reported a 65 percent jump in clients since mid-February. Text messages and transcribed therapy sessions collected anonymously by the company show coronavirus-related anxiety dominating patients’ concerns.
So, my question this morning is simple: How are you? What are you doing to cope?