I am a person with a lot of anxiety. My brother is a gifted, multisport athlete. I’ve watched his morale rise and fall with the openings and closings of Santa Fe’s ice rink, and I’ve been pretty hostile toward his feelings.
I genuinely do not understand why many people have seemingly been unable to stay home throughout this pandemic. And I don’t mean not just reducing their social activities or gatherings, but committing to quarantine.
The strategy of continuing with business as usual as much as possible doesn’t seem like a good one. We can’t just spread a deadly virus and wait for a vaccine.
It took me quite a bit of time and talking to several people to realize, however, what I thought was best for everyone in the long run would still come at a great cost to others. The overall mental health of the United States has plummeted; a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released in August found that over 40 percent of adults are experiencing behavioral health issues associated with the pandemic, and teens are not immune.
Suicide rates are spiking, and CDC data shows only 1 in 5 suicide attempts is successful, meaning a larger part of the population experiences thoughts of self-harm than it would appear. Several school districts across the country are considering reopening early, like one in Clark County, Nev., where 18 students have taken their own lives since the pandemic started. Some people can simply no longer afford to be alone.
Being emotionally alone is something many experienced at some point in their life before the pandemic, but I have not had a single encounter with another high school student who does not feel at least somewhat alone now. Many feel completely alone.
As small recreational groups are being put together, a lot of them focus on community. This approach seems more harmless than hybrid school reopenings, but there’s still a downside. It can’t help everyone. Communities in New Mexico with less funding are continually hit the hardest by the pandemic. And with less resources, less can be done about it.
Making decisions would be much simpler if we were only risking ourselves every time we made a lax decision, but in the pandemic era, we’re also risking whomever we quarantine with and anyone we might randomly encounter. The trickle-down effect can lead to people with deadly but treatable issues visiting the ER only to be left in an unnecessarily deadly situation due to overrun hospitals.
The most important quality we can employ as we fight the virus is empathy.
We genuinely do not understand what others are going through. You need to do everything in your power to keep yourselves and others safe, but some people will need to combat issues that appear more urgent to them at the present moment; an example teens face is choosing to attend school in person for their mental health or staying home to avoid infection. Regardless, if we all lead by example, we can all assume the best in others.