21 April 2020 – Craig Maguire, Mental Health Therapist
IMPRESSIONS Family Counselling Services Inc.
Could any of us ever imagined a day where we would encounter such unprecedented and restrictive conditions affecting the health, and very lives, of people World-wide? It is such a surreal experience and one that seems to have come straight from some “end-of-the-World” blockbuster horror movie rather than the real and ever persistent existence it now represents in all our lives. With popularity for movies and tv series depicting zombies and the dead rising, it can sometimes feel like we have reached an impasse between our fictional entertainment World and the one which we live in day-to-day in reality.
It is has only been a few months now since the covid-19 pandemic has become so widely known and feared. Regrettably, it was not first reported to the World when it became known and has since spread like wild-fire around the globe in what can only be considered “lightening” speed. As of today’s date, the reported total confirmed cases of covid-19 globally has reached.
Needless-to-say, this is certainly alarming and the reported total deaths reported World-wide has now reached.
With schools, stores, and a host of service organizations closed to the public, the realities of this pandemic has reached us all in record time. It has been said that it will no longer be BUSINESS AS USUAL and, this certainly appears to be the understatement of the year!
So what can any of us expect in the weeks and months, even years, to come? Has the World hit a new era of existence which will forever be changed by this and fears of other such diseases? It truly is hard to say. After-all, the World has had previous experiences with such devastating diseases as smallpox, malaria, pneumonia, HIV and Aids, and the ever persistent cancers that still affect millions World-wide. Through it all, mankind has persistently and effectively managed to maneuver itself through each of these diseases, and others, and despite the unfortunate loss of life encountered with each of them, these diseases have failed at disposing mankind to a fate of extinction. But, can the same be said for something like covid-19? Or is it more about our over-all lifestyles enjoyed today that speak volumes about our vulnerability rather than the inherent dangers imposed by such diseases? Respectfully, my meaning here is simply that we enjoy a global culture of pretty much doing what we want, when we want, with relatively few restrictions imposed upon us in this modern World – of course, unless we are engaged in illegal activity.
Here’s a question to consider though, for a brief moment - Despite the definite inconveniences created by the covid-19 pandemic and the social isolating/distancing requirements imposed, has it not also had some positive effects in your life, and that of your family? Well, it’s a strange question to pose when such suffering and hardships are now being felt by so many around the World but we must admit, life has had to slow down just a bit, and along with it, how we live our daily lives. It is a different World today than it was just a few months ago, prior to covid-19. Simple tasks, often taken for granted, like shopping for groceries, or attending appointments, no longer can be accommodated with the same ease and convenience once enjoyed.
From the closures of parks and beaches, long line-ups at grocery stores (along with many empty shelves), team sporting events cancelled and recreational centres closed, the prevailing message over the past few weeks has remained consistent – STAY HOME! While most of us have certainly abided by the restrictions imposed, there remains a few who continue to test limits and push the envelope of social tolerance and common sense to new heights. As is usually the case in times of crisis and tragedy, you will undoubtedly see the absolute best in some people, and the worst in others. This seems to be an obvious and consistent truth. It is so heart-warming and encouraging though to see our youth of today also speaking up and expressing their thoughts and thanks to the numerous front-line and first responders who continue to meet our needs. The conditions now faced, whether truly appreciated or not, have served to bring us all a little bit closer to our family, our friends, our neighbours, and our communities – BUT – all from a relative distance, of course.
It is likewise a bit surprising that, in this era of ipads, cell phones and all the technological toys which have predominated and consumed our lives more than ever before have now become more of a necessity than the luxury it originally and customarily presented. With this new and ever-changing, even demanding, set of circumstances and conditions now faced, the outcome in general has been an overall sense of gratitude and appreciation expressed for our valiant front-line and first response professionals who continue to work diligently and conscientiously to ensure our safety and well-being. It is likewise refreshing to note, and certainly long overdue, the recognition of our valued grocery personnel, mail couriers, and other basic service providers, including our reliable truck drivers who ensure that some degree of normalcy and continuity in our lives is maintained and assured. Simply put, what would we do without all of them and their diligent efforts, on our behalf?
The science fiction of yesterday has certainly, in many regards, become today’s reality. We will no-doubt survive this pandemic as we have all the ones before it however, it remains to be seen if LIFE, as we have grown to know and understand it, will ever return to exactly what we once enjoyed. For one thing, the enormous mental health implications to be felt by this pandemic have not even started to be fully realized. At a time when mental health issues was already a global epidemic, the onset and continuing demands placed on health care providers World-wide in addressing and supporting those affected, in one way or another, by covid-19, remains an ever present and very real concern. With the sad loss of many first response professionals who selfishly risked their lives in the performance of their duties, and themselves became infected, to the countless other front-line professionals who are suffering with the enormous demands and expectations placed upon them during this time of greatest need, there will eventually arise a breaking point when the system itself will need to heal and rejuvenate itself - if not out of necessity, then purely out of sheer demand as more and more front-line professionals succumb to the devastating health conditions and emotional hardships preventing them from functioning and maintaining these continued expectations.
Seriously, we have for far too long enjoyed and come to take for granted the luxury of having services and professionals readily available to us, if, when and as we need them. Now, with a system overloaded with demands, and a growing population of mental health needs, our less than perfect health and social assistance systems will surely highlight their flaws and shortcomings as more and more demands for services continue while fewer professionals remain available, competent or healthy to provide these services. What this means for our Society, in general terms, is a return to simpler times whereby people will need to start developing improved coping skills, employ common sense and practical behaviours, live within their means, and start depending on their own abilities and skills to overcome adversity without the quick and easy access to professional services for everything that ails them. It will indeed be a matter of “survival of the fittest” but, in practical terms, what it represents is a return to what our Society once was. The past 50 years have become progressively faster and faster as technology has advanced, and we have come to accept the busy lifestyles and hectic schedules that most of us perceive as our normal daily routine. Life, as we know it, needs to, and surely will have to start to slow down as we are limited, even restricted, in what we can and cannot do, where and when we can do it, and who is available to support and assist us when help is needed. On a positive note, it is hoped that this slowing of life will also represent a degree of increased family time, parents having more time to be parents and spending precious vital time with their children. Perhaps it will also mean less take out nights at the drive-through window and more planned family meals at home together with everyone sharing in an actual meal and the enjoyment of being together as a family.
No matter how it may manifest itself, the reality appears to be convincing that our Society, and our lives, will be forever marked and changed by the 2020 covid-19 global pandemic for many years to come.
With this said, what if anything can we do now to prepare for what may be a blessing in disguise, in some regards, but at a very real and devastatingly high cost to come? Already we have people out of work due to office closures. Others are working at home. Others still are working at reduced rates of pay, while their monthly bills continue at the same rate of accumulation. As Governments around the World continue to struggle with proposing and implementing relief packages for individuals and families during this time of crisis, what happens when the disease is no longer the issue? There will come a time when the billions of dollars that Governments have spent on providing these relief programs will surely come to an abrupt halt. And, realistically, there will certainly come a time when there is simply no more money to access in which to provide these programs. If we believe homelessness is an issue now, you will not be pleased to see the countless number of new individuals and families who have yet to suffer such debilitating and unfortunate circumstances.
Suicides, another social factor already a concern, will become even more prevalent as more and more people suffer losses which they simply cannot recover from or receive the timely assistance and supports they desperately require. Ultimately, Governments have a very thin line to walk in presenting aid programs, despite the circumstances, as eventually they know and understand, all too well, that the money pot will eventually run dry and become empty. Now this is a somewhat pessimistic view to propose and it is one that we all hope and pray does not come to be. Regrettably, keep in mind that even before the covid-19 pandemic arrived, the issues concerning homelessness, lack of employment opportunities, high consumer prices, the doctor shortages, health care in general, crime (and especially violent crimes), education, drugs, and suicides, especially those committed by our suffering first-response professionals were already serious and persistent issues we were struggling with. Now, it seems with the on-set of a new era of living daily life with increased scrutiny and restrictions will have even more serious impactful influence on these societal conditions and, ultimately, how we are able to address them effectively and efficiently.
Although Governments will still have the responsibility of governance, the harsh realities are they are not equipped, nor do they have the financial and personnel resources in order to truly be effective in solving all the ramifications and issues to be realized in the coming months and years. Simply put, and one frightening scenario reported, is that Governments are likely to become more militant, enact martial law, curfews, and further restrictions simply as a means of keeping harmony, peace and order in our changing Society. This scenario raises a whole new set of issues and concerns, onto itself, however, this new era we are about to enter will no-doubt be one of numerous changes and hardships that will last the rest of our lifetime, and quite possibly, for the lifetime of our children, and their children as well.
So, the question once again becomes, “how do we prepare” for this uncertain future? This writer does not profess to have any insights or premonitions of the future however, some very realistic suggestions come to mind.
1. First, and maybe most important of all, be willing to accept that things will be different. They already are! And although we all hold out hope that some degree of life, as we know it, returns soon, there will be elements of life that will not be the same ever again. Becoming panicked or stressed by this, although completely understandable and expected, will demand that each of us realize, and take seriously, the realities of this new era and how we choose to live our daily lives in managing these impending changes.
2. There has always been various professionals that have warned throughout the ages that keeping all your money in the bank is not a wise choice. For one thing, how easy will be it be to get to your money when you actually need it? Even more alarming is what if the money becomes worthless? It is hard to imagine such a scenario however, again, professionals for years have cautioned us to invest in gold and precious metals as they warn these will become the primary sources of currency when money no longer retains any value. Although this writer is a bit skeptic that such extreme measures will occur within our lifetime, the point is taken and understood that banks simply serve a purpose until such time as they no longer serve that purpose. If and when that day arrives, our money, our investments, and our very existence will no-doubt rest on what, if anything, we can access from our banks to accommodate our needs.
3. Be prepared to see a much harsher, even more aggressive Society than that accustomed to as more and more individuals and families become dissolute, homeless and helpless in the weeks and years to come. Crime, of every kind, will increase and organized crime will again become a rampant and persistent reality in escaping the confines and restrictions imposed by our Governments. The days of allowing our children to play carefree in the backyard or at the neighbourhood park will also be things of the past. As money becomes less important, simply because few will have any, then other commodities become valuable – and, human trafficking will also see a dramatic rise in the number of victims who will fall prey to this adherent crime. With schools also changing to meet the needs of this new era, more and more children will be home-schooled, or at the very least, educated at home via computer and teleconferencing means and methods. Social distancing will soon become a matter of social isolation as even our children will not have the same luxuries of enjoying the outdoors with friends, organized sports, shopping in the malls freely, and so on.
4. It is highly likely that seniors, veterans and the most needy of our Society’s population will eventually need to be segregated from the mainstream population simply because their numbers, conditions and the magnitude of solutions needed to effectively address these people, and their issues, has no promise of realistic and effective resolve. Governments, in an effort to contain these unfortunate souls while under the disguise of “protecting” the rest of Society, will no-doubt need to find a means of isolating this population and monitoring them closely in order to maintain a degree of perception concerning our overall safety and security. Needless-to-say, many people are destined to perish under such horrid conditions forced upon them. If not by health means than certainly by suicide. Again, this certainly presents a very pessimistic and bleak outlook for our future however, it remains one that is already being spoken of publicly in the suspected aftermath of this covid-19 pandemic. Regardless if these are only efforts of fear-mongering or actually have some basis of truth and possibility, the fact remains that our Society’s most needy and vulnerable populations stand to be on the forgotten lines and their suffering heightened by a Society that now not only won’t, but CAN’T meet their on-going and effective care and support needs. As this becomes a larger population of people over time, the costs associated with addressing this enormous population will far exceed the costs of containing them and leaving them to their own devices and demise. Jails and prisons will become non-existent as Governments can no longer maintain the financial burdens these facilities represent. For this reason, those incarcerated for crimes will likely be “expelled” to the areas or zones that will be "quarantined" and designated as the Bad Lands. Again, this all sounds like something straight out of a movie however, some analysts and experts predict that we may very well be heading toward such conditions or, certainly, some variance of these conditions.
5. Fossil fuels will likely represent a new issue in our new World era as fewer and fewer vehicles will be required for travelling and our roads, streets and highways become barren of traffic as there will be relatively few places to go. On-line sites such as Amazon and E-bay, and numerous others, will replace the urge to head out to the local mall or grocery store for a jug of milk or a loaf of bread. It is said that there are already companies working towards the development of “delivery drones” to accommodate such sales markets and meeting the anticipated needs ahead. Again, fact or fiction, it is reasonable to assume that some degree of truth and reality may very well be realized in such predictions and analysis of future days ahead.
6. Hospitals, health care centres, and walk-in clinics will all but be redesigned to house and care for only those whose care cannot be provided at home. Rather, for the rest of us, EMS, paramedics and first response teams will be tasked with extensive more duties, with physicians on-hand, to treat people directly at their residence with an onslaught of new technological advances available to them in terms of immediate blood test results, and the like. Diagnosis will become a quick and effective means of ensuring that people’s health is addressed while minimizing costs and negating the need for institutional care facilities in the same manner we have always realized in the past. Even regular physician appointments, now seen transformed into strictly telephone consultations during this pandemic, will become more of a norm than an exception as our entire health care system re-shifts and develops further its desired on-line services rather than conducting customary office visits. Dentists will certainly experience some extreme challenges in the years ahead as their professional expertise requires person-to-person contact. It is difficult to predict just what and how these services will be transformed, as yet, but truth be told, changes lie ahead here as well as with virtually every form of health provision service imaginable.
Unquestionably, in the aftermath of the 2020 global covid-19 corona virus pandemic, there will be many changes to our daily lives and expectations to come, well beyond much of what we are already experiencing, but all very much in-line with a necessity to maintain order, control and manageability of our Society by Governments who no longer have the viable or foreseeable financial resources in order to accommodate a new National debt load that, for all intent-and-purposes, will never be fully accounted for and eliminated completely. Despite rising costs and taxes, there simply is not now, nor will there ever be, enough money to accommodate effectively, everything that needs to be addressed and resolved. For this reason alone, Governments, corporations, businesses, individuals and families will all need to bare the burden of change that will be required to ensure a level of peaceful harmony and effective daily living, even if there are more and more of us who will suffer uncontrollable and indiscriminate losses never before imagined.
In an age of acceptance as social media and new forms of communications prevail as preferred methods of social interaction between people, these methods are likely to become as common-place and normal as the ordinary light bulb. There will be little to no need for social gatherings and even events such as weddings, graduations, educational conferences, and so on will all be transformed in very different ways of ensuring that social distancing remains prevalent and persistent in our day-to-day lives.
No-doubt there will be many people who will not appreciate this new era and all it’s changes and expectations. Again, mental health concerns will continue to be heightened on a World-wide scale however, the days of what we have come to realize as “normal” will be anything but normal as we all will need to adapt to the changing conditions for which our Society now formally operates.
Our individual resolve in understanding, accepting, adapting and adjusting to whatever Societal changes may be impending will ultimately be the true test in our resilience and fortitude to survive in a very changed World. Just as Governments have over the past 50 years slowly dissolved and virtually extinguished the middle-class family class, in order to adopt a more streamlined format of “HAVES” and “HAVE-NOTS” in its place, the World must now reconsider how human life can continue to evolve and flourish but without the same considerations of finance and equality distributed amongst the population as there will not be enough resources available to go around for all and meet the needs of the now 7.8 billion people on the planet, and with this number growing exponentially each day.
Although some, perhaps many, may elect to see these descriptions as bleak and “end-of-days” rhetoric, the truth is that we all know change is coming. It comes daily and is not dependent upon virus pandemics or anything in particular. It’s simply LIFE. With this said however, we do know that serious change is needed in order to secure safely our continued existence and overall wellness as a species. It simply cannot be “business-as-usual” as we have, for far-too-long, enjoyed and ravished the conveniences which now will slowly become more luxuries and privileges than the usual and typical expected conveniences we have taken for granted. Regardless of any changes and adaptations required however, the only real assurance anyone has in this new era to come is within themselves and their personal resolve to adapt and accommodate, as best they can, to whatever changes transpire without falling victim to severe depression, acute anxiety or a sense of hopelessness, despair and unmanageable fears.
Although none of us truly knows what the future holds, we do know that life, in general, will be different and that the necessity for change is not only necessary, it is absolutely crucial to our very survival. As a therapist, and one that advocates vehemently for the underprivileged, it deeply saddens me that there is a very real possibility, and probability, that those most “needy” in our Society will likely be the hardest hit and most severely affected. One thing is for sure though - whereas we are asked to stay home now in order to stay safe and protect ourselves and others around us, the prevalence of this condition will survive long after the pandemic is eradicated and life for us all will soon take on a much different set of perspectives and norms as we struggle to meet the new demands of employment, education, health, and everything in-between.
In order to prepare for whatever changes and inevitable adaptations we may be faced with, it is important that we keep an open mind, prepare for the worst, and accept that not all change is necessarily bad – it’s just different. Perhaps the high price to be paid for all the advancements realized by mankind is an acceptance and a return to an insightful appreciation of what we already have rather than the incestuous acquisitions of wealth, fame and power. We will need to, once again, value ourselves and each other, and find our path back to the days of when we lived within our means and appreciated the hardships to be endured in order to simply provide for ourselves and our families. The World may never “slow” its pace however, life, as we know it, will certainly need to in order to ensure that life on Earth can evolve and still present a measure of comfort, security, enjoyment and happiness for those who have been able to adapt to a new set of rules throughout this new World era.
Hang in there folks – the ride is about to get very bumpy.
About the Author: Craig Maguire is a proactive executive with 30+ years utilizing organizational development experience, project/case management capabilities, therapeutic counselling and intervention services, business management and administrative accountabilities, and strategic educational/coaching facilitation.He is an inspiring leader and outstanding visioning, strategic planning and change management skills. With years of leadership and community experience, he is recognized for his passionate intuitive leadership, community investment, stakeholder engagement, enthusiasm, public speaking, and exceptional ability to motivate and engage people in proactive strategies, with emphasis on developing local, Provincial, and National partnerships and alliances.
Craig is engaged in private practice operations through his established organization, IMPRESSIONS FCS Inc. and is Provincially-licensed as a registered social worker in British Columbia, Canada.