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Responding to a World in Hurt and Pain

Recently, two questions have been brought to my attention that had me thinking for quite a while:

What’s it like being an art therapist during a pandemic?


How should I respond to the world right now?

Immediately I took a deep breath and thought - (insert deep breath) it’s heavy, dark and I can’t hold the space for it all


So to address the first question:

What’s it like being an art therapist during a pandemic?

To respond to this answer I want to take into consideration this is my experience as an art therapist and does not speak for all art therapists. So in response immediately at the beginning of the pandemic I was concerned for the mental health of past, current and future clients. I thought ok I understand orders are in place in response to an emergency and just like our brains when there is an emergency we have a fight flight freeze response to do whatever it takes to get through the situation. But then once we make an action driven by emotional responses (this is in our limbic system and protects us) then later our rational thinking and conscious awareness kicks in and we realize what is happening. The response was immediate, it had to be, we are all in an emergency…but that’s the thing it’s an emergency response when will a rational thinking kick in for those who may be affected negatively? Where is the sustainable solution?

I am not saying it is the wrong response I just think we need to explore ways to do better for humankind and that the emergency response may not be the sustainable one.

My wish is that physical health and mental health are seen as equal, not one take a priority over the other.

Immediately as a therapist I thought:

Will the number of suicides increase?

What about those who are dying of mental health?

What about those who are being abused at home?

What about the children who are traumatized by sexual assault and abuse?

What about the generations in the future who those same kids will be forever traumatized?

What will happen with addiction in the future?

What about those fighting addiction now?

What will happen to the number of sexual assaults and minor sexual assaults all because we couldn’t help notice signs and help break a cycle?

What about the person who is dying of depression? What about the person that just left her house for the first time in months because of anxiety and now may not feel comfortable leaving for a long time?

What about those trapped in domestic violent situations?

What about children on hospice will they be able to have their families with them?

What about adults on hospice will they be able to have anyone with them?

What will happen to all frontline staff where is their mental health support at a time of crisis?

What will happen to those in financial crisis?

What about those who missed out on milestones?

What about those who could not attend a funeral?

What about those living with intense anger how will it come out, who will be affected and hurt?

People may not be able to afford mental health services (and yes that has happened) so what about that person? The one who made progress, the one who had his/her therapeutic relationship and now that person is on their own.

Wiped of that healthy relationship.


Then it hit home even more.

I lost two people in one evening. One being a past client from years ago to mental health during this pandemic. I thought people are dying and what is being done about this? I felt like I have been screaming for help and all heads have been turned and continued to turn away. Imagine if you are a Doctor and you have a patient with COVID and you know what needs to be done to help that patient but you are in position where you have to just watch and see how it plays out-that’s your only option. It’s the same thing with mental health, people are suffering, people are in pain, and people are dying and I feel I cannot do anything about it.

I understand the need to take the actions that have been taken place and I also am concerned that those who are dying from mental health are not being considered. We have got to do better for humankind.


And now the second question:

How to respond to the world right now

While I certainly don’t have all the answers-i’m learning and growing constantly too. But I am looking at the facts and this what I know- a lot of people are hurting. With that hurt there is pain, grief, confusion and anger. When reflecting on the first question as we have been living in a fight, flight or freeze response I think about how we have been living in crisis. We are just trying to survive and are in a constant mode of fight, flight or freeze- a stage meant for survival and emergencies not our day to day living.

Even when the world continues to move forward I ask you to recognize there are people dying of mental health and the thing is you can’t see a bandage around a brain. You may not know who is suffering. I ask as time continues and you're wondering how to respond to others and what to do I believe the response should come from a place from genuine care in action, thought and language, a place that is nonjudgmental or others and valid to that person's experiences. We should try and be more mindful, reach out to others if you think someone may be hurting and for God’s sake may be just be a little kinder.

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