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The Mental Health of the Nation

THE NURSE PERSPECTIVE: The Mental Health of a Nation
For the past four years, this nation and its people have been besieged on all sides and the mental health of the nation has declined. There are tremendous losses of jobs, housing, food, the very necessities of life and living.  These past 10 months the loss of life due to the pandemic, is now in the hundreds of thousands.  People are grief-stricken, unable to properly bury their loved ones; many suffer depression, many are alone in their enforced isolation; churches and community agencies are overburdened in attempts to care for the neediest in their communities.  The disturbing element for many during all of this is being unable to reach a live human at the other end of the telephone in desperate attempts to get services.  This all adds up to mental health crises for individuals as well as for society as a whole, for an entire nation as we suffer the indignities surrounding these losses, unable to meet basic human needs.  
Maslow was a humanist psychologist and in 1943 he developed a concept of how people are motivated to meet their needs. His Hierarchy of Needs is the most read, used, and well-known description of human needs.  Maslow’s theory has been the “bible” for sociologists and for those of us who study human needs and attempt to change the picture for individuals suffering from losses and unable to meet their own needs.
This hierarchy is shown as a pyramid, beginning with the most basic needs -food, shelter, water, sleep, and warmth and moves upward to more complex needs that are more psychological – safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The eventual goal is to realize on the final level, self-actualization or to a feeling of self-satisfaction that one has accomplished something in life.  He proposes that people meet their needs by how they respond to the challenges of life. 
When people are denied basic life-sustaining needs like food and shelter, all other domains of life come to a screeching halt.  When our safety is in jeopardy, we feel less loved by society and often are cast aside as unimportant, lowering our self-esteem.  When our basic human needs are unmet, the pyramid crumbles.  Maslow’s theory has been and continues to be the basis of study for those of us who work with families, who attempt to help in times of need.  But I daresay, the increasing lack of caring by a government we trusted to care, has caused a deterioration in society, so much so that there are fewer people to fight for Constitutional rights and fewer resources to meet basic needs. 
Then along comes COVID-19 creating mass disruption in our living, physically and socially, isolating us from each other these last 10 months in a downward spiral.  I could be very descriptive about the long lines of cars, long lines of people waiting to get a bag of groceries, a loaf of bread, a carton of milk. I could describe the tent cities that have sprung up in major cities across our nation, in neighborhood parks, on sidewalks, in church parking lots, anywhere there is an empty space and, more often than not, housing entire families who have lost everything including their dignity.  I have personally met some who have chosen to live off the grid because they have found a simpler way to meet their needs.  I could also wax eloquently about those governors (granted only a handful) and city mayors who have stood steadfast in managing their own state and city resources and their responses to the craziness coming from Washington and who try without the help of Washington to meet some basic needs.
Without adding to your already confused life, or your worry about what the future holds, let me hasten to assure you, you are not and have not been in this topsy-turvy, craziness all alone. But I believe when a problem raises its ugly head, there has to be a solution or at least an attempt to solve it.  So now with a new year around the corner and a new administration, things are beginning to look better already and soon the year 2020 will be a distant memory, albeit an awful one.
We can see much clearer now and can begin to plan for a better day.  For example, my sister and I talked about preparing for Spring gardens and my soul felt lifted.  Those exercises that kind of went by the wayside because we couldn’t see how they were making a difference, can now begin again with renewed vigor. Those hi-carb foods can be thrown out and a return to a healthier meal plan can be introduced for the whole family and just watch those extra pounds we gained begin to disappear.
Keep looking up and forward, for the future holds great promise.  Our mental health will improve, our nation will in time get healthier, and sanity will return to the earth.  Birds and bees will return to fulfill their duties and flowers will bloom on time.  Praise God!
See you next time,


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