Are we in a nuclear option situation – Is it mental health versus physical health? if we lockdown will we destroy our mental health and our economy? What’s the kindest option?
There are quite a few voices complaining about another lockdown for reasons of mental health and employment protection, and I get it. I didn’t like the last lockdown. I was stuck at home with two small children and no child minder. I quit work to mind them. We took a massive financial hit, and my sanity took a battering. There have been quite a few scary stats filtering out about the last lockdown – a 30% increase in domestic violence, alcoholism at a higher rate than ever before, and possibly higher suicide rates. These aren’t things that can be shrugged off easily.
However, if we don’t lockdown, we could clearly end up in a situation where more people suffer from Covid, where hospitals are overloaded and can’t cope. Treatments have improved since March, but what if there aren’t enough treatments to go around and the docs have to make war-time decisions?
And then there’s the icky question about long covid. Just because it doesn’t kill you, doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods.
I just don’t know which option is kinder – to lockdown in the face of the dark autumnal months and allow people’s mental fitness to struggle, or to let thousands suffer from an as yet incurable disease?
I had a quick sconce and the analysis so far shows that countries who locked down hard and early, eradicated the virus from their shores soonest, and so came out of lock down swiftest.
See the table below, courtesy of this weekend’s FT.
Evidence from a recent study at MIT shows something similar – where the areas in the US who locked down hardest during the Spanish flu also saw economies bounce back swiftest.
This isn’t a finance first conversation. The economy re-energising is a sign of people stretching the legs and toddling back onto their feet, resuming normal activities – and that translates to less time for mental health gremlins to fester and multiply in people’s minds.
We’re living through a generational crisis, as so many have done before us. Curfew and black out during WW2 can’t have been easy and no doubt millions existed with PTSD afterwards, but at least they had that chance, to live. They probably could have done with a bit of counselling or even a few more hugs but it does show that we can recover, that our mental health can bounce back – with help – but it can.
So my gut says we bite the bullet – lockdown soon and as a nation. We do it together so that we can get outta that dark, lonely tunnel together as soon as possible.
We lock down with a plan for people to still exercise both mentally and physically, to communicate and to stay in touch.
We lock down with an eye on a recovery strategy for both the economy and investment in mental health afterwards.
We lockdown because it’s possible to recover from everything, except death.
PS It only really works if the country locks down together. If too many people break the rules, the disease keeps spreading and we don’t bust out of it’s control quickly enough.