Although the so-called mental disorders undoubtedly have a biological correlate, their nature goes beyond the body involving social, cultural, and psychological dimensions. More often than not our suffering is the result of how we organize our affairs on a collective level
COVID-19 reminds us that we, as a species, are not an exception, able to stand outside or above the ebb and flow of life on earth. This is of course unsettling, but there might yet be healing power in recognising our shared vulnerability and interdependence.
There will, of course, be those with pre-existing experiences of severe mental distress, and those who develop severe distress during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it is essential that they are able to access the professional care they need. But the narrative in much of the media that huge numbers of us will need access to these same services only serves to increase the anxiety in all of us, and cast doubt on our ability to cope.
For me, this documentary raised so many issues beyond Tony’s individual story. I was deeply touched by his honesty and I sincerely hope he is now getting the trauma-informed support he has needed since he was a desperate, terrified 8-year-old boy more than half a century ago. But it also raises wider concerns.
Stephen Porges is professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina and “Distinguished University Scientist” at Indiana University, where he has created the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium.
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