By David Woodlock, New York Daily News, April 9, 2020
Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Self-isolate if you are experiencing symptoms. Right now, our health-care system is — very appropriately — in emergency triage mode in the battle against COVID-19. But there is a looming crisis on the horizon if we only pay attention to the physical and ignore the emotional dimensions of this pandemic.
A landmark 1997 study found that Adverse Childhood Experiences, including things like physical, sexual and emotional trauma, can have lasting impacts on physical and emotional health. Right now, our society is going through a lot of trauma. The wall-to-wall news coverage is causing widespread anxiety, and all of us have had our daily routines disrupted. There are grim economic realities too, with millions of Americans losing their jobs, and entire industries completely upended. Many of us will get the virus and have frightening symptoms, or even lose loved ones to COVID-19.
For behavioral health professionals, all this presents a unique set of problems. It is important that we heed the advice of public health professionals who are encouraging us to maintain physical distance. But we need to recognize that the nature of how we defeat this virus will make it more difficult to deal with the emotional challenges caused by this pandemic.