I’ve come to know that in the wake of every loved one’s passing lies a turbulent trail of tears adrift in the void left behind. As one lovable actor famously responded when asked what he thought happens when we die, “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.” I don’t take lightly the pain of loss as such and pray that all who experience it learn to live with it and find comfort in their own remaining years of life somehow.
The general frenzy and fear-mongering around the issue of COVID-19 stands as a stark reminder of our very human aversion to death and dying. And yet we know with absolute certainty that death is an absolute certainty—“Death comes to us all; even at our birth—even at our birth, death does but stand aside a little. And every day he looks towards us and muses somewhat to himself whether that day or the next he will draw nigh. It is the law of nature, and the will of God” (Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons). One way or another we all fall down—ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I find myself more and more irritable over all things “COVID-related,” the new household term of our times. Mostly I am sick of how willingly so many of us have relegated our public narrative to be driven by fear—I dare say even panic—and am generally fed up with people in leadership positions fueling public frustrations and fear with their own frustrations and fear. No doubt we are all frustrated, but not all of us are afraid. So show me a leader who puts his own fears aside and maintains composure in the face of adversity and I’ll show a leader I will gladly follow. Those who cannot do as much don’t get to walk at the front of my line.
On that note, it seems all lines lead to COVID isolation/quarantine. While I have no doubt that the powers-that-be are acting with the best of intentions, I really cannot help my visceral disgust with ongoing draconian mandates to isolate (or rather lock people up). The truth is that for some of us, just the thought of being locked in a room with no option to get out creates a serious mental health (or rather illness) toll. I couldn’t help but to reflect on this issue at the thought of the young man reported to have completed suicide while being forced into isolation—God rest him.
Some provisional 2020 data on suicide rates out of England has found no evidence that national suicide rates increased due to the pandemic; however, “The effects of the pandemic are being disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable people in society and are exacerbating factors we know are related to suicide” (samaritans.org – Coronavirus and Suicide Risk).
“The combination of physical distancing, economic stress, barriers to mental health treatment, pervasive national anxiety, and a spike in gun sales are creating what JAMA Psychiatry referred to as “a perfect storm” for suicide mortality” (psycom.net – Impact of COVID-19 on Suicide Rates)”
Furthermore, “The research has been clear on this one for years: isolation and loneliness is bad for our health—both physical and mental. There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators” (Lunstad).
Knowing this, why are we so quick to force people into isolation? And why given our local case of death by suicide while in lock-up at a government mandated facility aren’t we developing reactionary protocols to prevent further such deaths as we’ve done for COVID-related deaths? Is death by suicide somehow less of a concern than a COVID-related death?
In any event, if I should die, please don’t dare say it was because of COVID; in fact, 50 years of consuming excess amounts of sugar, salt, alcohol and other unknown, if not incendiary, substances not intended for human consumption are the more likely culprits. Simply, there lies a man who took his last breath and is no longer with us.
For information on advocacy for individuals with mental illness, please contact NMPASI at (670) 235-7273/4 [voice] / 235-7275 [fax] or contact us online at www.nmpasi.org.
Jim Rayphand is executive director of the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc.