Each May, we celebrate the progress of the recovery movement and acknowledge many obstacles yet to be overcome. The COVID pandemic presents a singular challenge to the mental health of so many this year, and not merely because it poses grave physical and economic hazards injurious to emotional stability. Interventions designed to mitigate the risk of infection (e.g., “social distancing”) cause individuals with mental health concerns to endure isolation and all its attendant ills. Measures critical to public safety threaten to deprive us of positive and affirming social connections integral to our health and wellbeing and to undermine the recovery of the most vulnerable among us.
It is thus incumbent on the behavioral health community to facilitate “physical distancing” and “social connectedness.” To this end, the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS) and Coalition for Behavioral Health established the “Strive for Five Challenge.” Its concept is beautifully simple. Those who accept the challenge must find five people with whom to “check in” daily for 30 days. This initiative reminds us of the power and primacy of our relationships and promises to reconnect us to that which is most important to our health and wellbeing. I accepted this challenge upon learning of it, and although I cannot boast perfect adherence to it, I can attest to its value. It reminded me of the many people with whom I am privileged to share this journey and whose support is essential to my happiness.
COVID has physically separated us but deepened our appreciation for the ties that bind us and are easily taken for granted. There is perhaps no better lesson to be learned during Mental Health Awareness month and no better tribute to pay to the countless lives lost and irrevocably altered by this crisis.