The pandemic hits society where it hurts the most

Johannesburg – With death and loss becoming a frequent experience in our society at this time, anxiety, depression, loneliness and isolation have increased.

Over the past year, South Africans have experienced high levels of death, whether from the dying coronavirus or other deaths, which in turn has created a “numb community”, according to psychologist Anele Siswana.

Siswana explains that Covid-19 has created a new standard that has forced humanity to face death in painful and drastic ways.

“The pandemic has introduced us to everyday deaths, with deaths in large numbers, causing us to experience death in ways we never imagined.

“I guess that’s one of the factors that contributes to the kind of social trauma and collective grieving that we go through.

“Collective mourning” because we have seen that when a person dies, the collective community feels the pain of loss and the grieving process as a collective begins.

“This is where we saw the literal expressions of ubuntu umntu, ngumntu ngabantu, and it is not only the immediate family that feels the loss but is felt by the collective, ”he added.

With these constant, untimed strokes, clinical mental disorders develop, Siswana explains, due to the difficulty in determining the boundaries between normal and abnormal grieving and grieving processes.

“Overall, we can clearly see that there is a percentage of individuals who may not return to normal functioning; they are stuck with a constant degree of bereavement and functional impairment.

“Ideally, a person grieving as a result of death is very likely to experience some of the emotional symptoms associated with bereavement.

“It can range from a deep feeling of extremely overwhelming sadness, a feeling of emptiness, of being in denial, of being preoccupied with loss, bitterness and the inability to find acceptance and a feeling of detachment, ”he adds.

With the above, Siswana emphasizes that our mental health strength and resilience is highly individualized.

“And because we have different emotional scopes, I recommend that we establish a compass that helps them make sense of situations at their level of emotional capacity.

“It is also linked to the availability and access to mental health services.

“I guess those who have access to mental health services and psychologists have an outlet for dealing with difficult emotions.

“While those who don’t have one are at risk of deteriorating and struggling with their mental health.

“So it’s imperative to work on your mental health on a daily basis,” he says.

For Valencia Maleka, she says, she is no longer afraid of losing people because her greatest fears have come true – the death of her father, the loss of her bond with her siblings and the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. , all during this pandemic period.

Maleka shares that she was already struggling with mental illness before the pandemic hit.

“This period actually evoked people’s mental illness and forced us to face our struggles, which we could mask with various activities in our past reality.

“We have been more exposed to the fact that we are a depressed nation and all of these tragedies are breaking us down further, forcing us to face ourselves and to cope, just like I have done,” she adds.

Bheki Zondo noticed that his sanity had plummeted in the face of all the tragic news we were exposed to.

“I even had to uninstall my social media apps and force myself to meditate because I was losing it,” he says, shaking his head.

“I’m a banker and it requires my full attention, but I’ve found myself losing so much focus over the past two months. I had to take medical leave, to recover. It was tough, he said.

Zondo concedes that while he hasn’t lost any of his loved ones or his job, it was the rate of negative news he was consuming that plunged him into that deep hole of depression he finds himself in.

“I just wonder how people are doing, because living is so painful right now.

“I’m not a big follower of prayer, but sometimes I find myself praying because I can feel how much I need all the help to survive,” he said.

Siswana says there is a need to cultivate and improve healthy ways of engaging with social media as a collective space, for support and the expression of empathy.

“The ease of the (containment) restrictions allowed us to reconfigure our ways of approaching death.

“As a collective community, we are now able to show our support and empathy to the bereaved, but we must continue to use social media and all these platforms with impact.

“These reconfigured ways consist of family prayers, community commitments to support people with mental health issues, returning to Indigenous expressions of love, care and healing.

“I strongly believe in involving psychologists in writing, teaching and empowering our communities as a path to social justice.

“At this time when not everyone has access to professional help, experts should make more use of psychoeducation on various platforms.

“It’s necessary.”

Independent Sunday

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