In a year plagued by a pandemic, disrupted by social unrest, and imbued with discord there is still reason to have hope
It’s hard to believe it has been a year since the Mental Health Missions website launched. What a year it has been. I think back to the December day in 2019 when the website first went live. I remember that day very vividly; it feels just like yesterday and yet, a lifetime ago. During this past year the months have passed by quickly while the days have lingered and felt long. As the inertia of 2020 comes to a close, I thought back to something I had posted about earlier this year, reflections. The end of any year seems a good time to reflect but 2020 has not been any year. How do you sum up a year that that has been rife with tragedy and unexpected sadness? I will do my best.
If there is one thing that stands apart from all else this calendar year it, undoubtedly, is the Covid-19 pandemic. You would be hard-pressed to find a corner of the planet impervious to the calamities created by Covid. A cruel and unrelenting disease, Covid has been an unwelcome force that has tenaciously pervaded entire communities, large and small, urban and rural, rich and poor. In its wake, it has spared no one based on any echelon or status; this is a disease that, like mental health, does not care about anything other than the fact that you are human.
Covid, however, is not the only battle we are combating. It seems more and more that dissension is permeating our everyday. In the wake of the pandemic, the country has repeatedly been referred to as divided. A bifurcated and acerbic split between the have and have nots, liberals and conservatives, blues and reds. The ubiquity of interminable information from multiple sources has resulted with people being at odds with each other when it comes to what is true and what is not. As each cataclysmic event of 2020 unfolded, it seemed our society unveiled itself as more polarized. We have been faced with many contemplations this year including reckonings about race, healthcare, mental health, personal rights, science, and economic challenges. These issues did not just come to light in 2020, they have long been a backdrop of our structural society, sometimes subtly, other times, conspicuously. It may have taken a global pandemic for us to confront veracities that have been looking us head on all along. The pandemic didn’t divide us, it may actually have revealed us.
Once vibrant and bustling metropolises have become eerily deserted, beset with closed for business signs hanging on abandon storefronts. Hospitals are overwhelmed; healthcare providers exhausted. Frontline workers, including grocery store employees, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, teachers, and transit workers are all weary. Food banks are inundated. Stress is endemic and we have become a culture fraught with consternation.
Among the many repercussions of this pandemic is the perennial isolation. Social distancing and staying six feet apart have caused many to experience further detachment in a world where authentic connection had already been tested by a constant and compulsive online existence. To protect from the perils of the coronavirus, many people are wearing masks. While visible masks might be a hallmark of 2020, ethereal masks are nothing new; to some degree we have all been shielding ourselves from the fear of something. Now, the reality we wake to each day compels us to consider the origin of those fears.
The pandemic has gravely impacted countless facets of our existence, exposing inequities and disparities while wreaking havoc on the already fragile mental health of so many. The crescendo of this pandemic has been a wakeup call that we cannot ignore. We have lost a great deal and experienced tremendous collective grief, which has taken an enormous toll on the state of our mental health.
When I started Mental Health Missions, the goal was to shine a light on mental health, emotional well-being, and social justice issues while advocating for people to reach a place of equanimity. The vision has always been to create an ethos of transparency and acceptance around mental health. I hope that Mental Health Missions can continue to serve as a springboard for important conversations and encourage positive change.
I want to express my appreciation to everyone who has supported Mental Health Missions. A heartfelt thank you to those who have been featured on the website, opening up and being vulnerable about personal struggles. I am also grateful to the professionals who have imparted their erudition to the Mental Health Missions audience base.
As many have been extremely generous by sharing personal narratives on the platform, I wanted to end the year with some of my reflections and insights about these trying times we are living through. There is no question that 2020 has been difficult and at points, very dire. However, even on the darkest days, there is reason to be hopeful. Hope is the backbone of self-preservation, allowing us to aspire to something greater, even during the bleakest of moments.
While Covid has distinguished itself to dominate the headlines this year, it does not define us. We are empowered to decide what it is that defines us. There are many people who are doing incredible work and making valuable contributions to their communities despite having experienced their own unfathomable obstacles. People forging meaningful connections and helping others; vying for a more just world and unifying to emerge stronger together. That kind of selflessness and empathy is the very core of the human spirit and reminds us that we are somehow all inextricably linked. Life’s challenges can test us to the limit, but the resilience of our shared humanity will always prevail.
Onward & Upward. To the bright days that are ahead.
Melanie Taussig, Founder of Mental Health Missions