Casualties of war

Not a single shot was fired to start the ‘war’ of 2020. It started with an announcement. The world is shutting down. A global lockdown was enforced. Unlike previous wars, this time around, there were no troops, tanks, visible war zones, and field hospitals filled with wounded soldiers. However, this war has disrupted and destroyed the normalcy and livelihood of millions of people, leaving them emotionally wounded and bleeding. This war may in fact result in more casualties than any other war before, if the casualty count is measured by the number of people suffering from emotional stress and pain. And yet, these casualties of war hardly ever make the headlines, since there are no visible wounds or dramatic war stories to tell. These ‘soldiers’ often suffer in silence and hide their pain.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), they averaged around 600 calls per day before the lockdown. This number has more than doubled since. The effects of living with less social contact, a disrupted daily structure, limited exercise, increased financial and health-related concerns, the fear of contracting the disease, or losing a loved one are all contributing factors.

Emotional pain can be crippling and extremely difficult to cope with, and the truth is that most of us do not know how to cope with it, because we never learned healthy ways of expressing our feelings and emotions, so we often just try to avoid them. We try not to think about it, or feel it. But this just makes matters worse. Some people develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as using alcohol or other substances to numb their feelings. Unfortunately, none of these approaches will lead to emotional healing. Emotions always tend to work themselves to the surface, where they are often expressed in a very negative and destructive way. Remember, hurt people hurt people, and ironically it is usually the people closest to us, those we care about the most, who are in the line of fire. That in itself is enough of a reason to reach out for help.

This battle we are currently engaged in is very real. According to psychologists, COVID-19 related patients are displaying the same symptoms usually associated with PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder). PSTD is essentially an anxiety disorder and comes about after a traumatic or life-threatening experience, such as war, sexual assault, accidents, or natural disasters, and the symptoms are anxiety, anger, depression, irritability, and sadness.

To many, this is indeed a traumatic time. Let us have more compassion and understanding for each other. Looks can deceive and one often has no idea of the mental and emotional battles that someone is engaged in. If somebody is laughing, it doesn’t mean that they are not in pain. Let us be kind.