Coming Together Instead of Tearing Down is Best For Mental Health


Several people resting their hands on each others

I had an appointment for my second vaccine scheduled for tomorrow , but this past Sunday, in the late afternoon, I saw that the wait at our drive-through was less than an hour. Apparently a lot of people saw that though so I ended up waiting more than 2 hours. 

Friends were in the next lane and every once in awhile we were lined up next to each other and could talk through our car windows.  This helped, but we were all somewhat annoyed at the wait.
When I eventually got into the building (you drive through this big building with 24 stations set up to give vaccines to those in the vehicles), I overheard some of the health care workers talking about there being a lot of cars still waiting, and it was 7:30. They looked tired and more than ready for it to be over, not just the evening, but the pandemic.

Suddenly my two hour wait didn’t seem as long.

Then, when I got home, I saw a headline about the lack of vaccines in developing nations, which made my wait seem so short and me feel so guilty for any complaints I made about it.
It’s often easy to forget about what life is like for others, whether that’s in another country or down the street. It’s easy to get caught up in our own circumstances. We don’t see what others are going through. We minimize they’re struggles. We see them, but for some reason, we think it’s okay to ignore them.

We’re under the mistaken impression that some people’s happiness (often our own) is worth more than others, or that some people’s health is worth more, or even some people’s lives.

Now, some readers may want me to stay away from talking about politics, but this is really about mental health. Us vs. them attitudes, dismissing the value of other people, is terrible for our mental health. It eats away at us as individuals as much as it does society. We can’t be mindful, present, and connected with others (all things that are good for mental health) while we’re trying to draw lines that separate us from others because of some perceived bias based on stories we let our mind run away with.

It’s easy to push away the suffering of others, especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed by bad news, pandemic restrictions, and economic worries, but we have to make space for what’s happening to others if only to make sure our own actions aren’t making things worse, including how we talk about others or treat them badly.

It doesn’t have to be anything big. Thank the health care worker who gives you your vaccine, because not only did they give it to you, but they’ve probably been working long hours and risking their lives through the pandemic. The same goes for grocery clerks, teachers (in some jurisdictions), and other frontline workers.

Communities, countries, do best when people come together instead of tearing each other down and apart. I think the pandemic would have had less of a mental toll if more people had done that. I hope that as we begin to come out of our pandemic boroughs, we’re more grateful, more patient, and more kind because that’s what will be best for the mental health of all of us.

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