My Love Letter to You and You During this Time: Your Mental Health is Paramount

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By Margaret Osolo Odhiambo

If you are like me and some of my colleagues or from a country with an overwhelmed health system like ours, this is really happening - it's hard, scary, helpless, heartbreaking, differently new and far from over. This new reality, especially for those of us living in the virus' epicentres and the hardest hit regions - in terms of health and on a socioeconomic basis - is exhausting. We have lost a lot, are isolated in our own confines and unable to grieve together in person. The fears of the ensuing economic disaster and instability is causing mental breakdown. I don't know when (or if) this coronavirus pandemic will be over, but I am hopeful from an overabundance of time and strength.

I wish everyone safety, strength, and resilience in these unsettling times:

If you are among the many who have contracted the virus - recovered or still ill,

If you have lost a loved one due to COVID-19,

If you are caring for the ill - family or not,

If you are constantly juggling child or elder care, or care for people living with disabilities and other chronic medical concerns with limited or no means,

If you are reeling from financial loss and instability, or loss of a job, an economic livelihood or sense of security...,

The many children, and young people who have lost their sense of order and security due to the closure of educational establishments and learning institutions with no end in sight,

The increased number of people who have suffered Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) living in fear at home,

To the refugees and asylum seekers who are facing immense challenges, and those facing travel or movement restrictions due to lockdowns, or limited hospital visits for their family and friends,

To those who are at most vulnerable to infection - persons with disabilities and people living with chronic diseases and other underlying medical conditions, the elderly,

The many and all of us who have experienced losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

...my thoughts are with you.

To all the frontliners - healthcare and essential workers who are fighting the pandemic and doing what they can to help us all, with their standard time off suspended. Their words and silences; their downfalls and strengths at times rushing in too quickly into the arms of one-dimensional positivity. Those stepping up and being present for their patients and colleagues in hospitals, as well as their families and communities,

...my respect and endless gratitude goes out to you. Your words, and compassion provide bridges to healing when the current science available is not able to offer a cure at this incredibly vulnerable time.

The one thing that matters now: Mental Health.

The most important thing right now is to survive - to remain and be alive, and to help others do so too. The cost of waiting for this pandemic to pass is a challenge to our mental resilience. It might feel scary to hold on today. It is okay to feel all of these things; cry if you must but do not lose sight of our humanity in the sea of anonymising statistics. No one gets a health guarantee.

It's ok to be anxious about life, limb, and loved ones. Some of the measures at this time are HARD to live with - quarantine, social distancing and staying away from family and friends are painful; look towards compassion, condolences, and the solidarity of our human kinship. Do not compare your heartbreak and loss to the current scope of global pain. Do not deny people their grief and sacrifice and the truth of their experience. After grieving, meditating, and reflecting, I hope we can feel more centred and optimistic.

"During crisis times like this, it's important to do our best as humans to keep sanity, be kind to one another, keep good vibes going, and we will get through this."

Love, Margaret Osolo Odhiambo

Stay safe, stay sane!

 

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Margaret Osolo Odhiambo is a Global Health Advocate with a passion for science and extensive knowledge, experience and programming in Health and Humanitarian Action.

She is keen on integrating essential and context-appropriate healthcare in communities, humanitarian crises and emergencies. Previously engaged in and pioneered health programmes e.g. Blood Safety;  Prevention, Treatment and Management of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs); Childhood Cancers, Child and Adolescent Health; Emergencies and Urban Disasters.

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