Some critical thinking please?
Today I wrote a letter to the Edmonton Journal in response to what I considered to be yet another irresponsible article on COVID-19, ignoring the mental health consequences of the pandemic. The article in hard-copy form was titled "Albertans becoming complacent: experts." It appeared on page A3. The article begins by stating this: "Albertans need to see every one of their contacts as a potential source of COVID-19 infection to help stop a second wave, despite feeling exhausted by the pandemic, local experts say."
This statement is followed by a story citing several medical experts who describe the terrible consequences of the disease. So let's do a reality check. No one want to become ill. No one wants to infect anyone else. I have found that people generally avoid getting sick.
However, perhaps this story needs to be a little more balanced; maybe even employ a tad more critical thought. Some questions: Is it possible that Albertans appear as if they are becoming complacent because they are weighing the costs of this pandemic to the harms they are accumulating to their mental health? And to the mental health of their loved ones? Are medical experts seriously asking us to view our contacts, including I assume families and loved ones, as sources of infection and potential disease? Is this really the appropriate frame of mind to advise individuals who are already feeling alone and afraid during this terrible time?
Let us keep in mind that physical health is not the only part of the equation. Physical and mental health are intimately related. Yes you can save someone from COVID-19 but you may lose them to suicide if you are not careful. During this time of hyper fear and vigilance, we are seeing more and more people engaging in suicidal thoughts according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. It would be beneficial to have Albertans see more data on the consequences of this pandemic. Can we please have Alberta Health publish rates of (1) calls to mental health phone-lines, (2) prescribed medications for depression and anxiety, and (3) suicide rates? Can we please see and evaluate the rates of these mental health indicators alongside COVID-19 deaths?
Before we start finger pointing as to who has and has not become complacent, let us ask why some Albertans are engaging in this so called "complacency?" Perhaps it is a coping mechanism or other form of sanity preservation amidst sheer madness in the media and much of what we observe in medical leadership. It is not unreasonable to have people weigh the costs of what they are being asked to give up - their ties to friends and family, their social and emotional wellbeing - in the face of battling any type of disease. This is not complacency necessarily; it may simply reflect that people are rightfully making decisions for themselves and their loved ones.
Oh and don't even get me started on the hypocrisy of banning single use plastics on the one hand and, on the other, the use of plastic gloves, shields, wipes that we are encouraged to wear - for our own protection and that we see framing many Edmonton sidewalks....
Cartoon credit: Malcolm Mayes (Oct 1, 2020). Edmonton Journal.