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July is National Minority Mental Health Month. Per the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH), this designation was created to raise awareness of the unique struggles that racial & ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.
We were very fortunate to be able to interview Terri Lawless, M.D., of East Central Regional Hospital prior to her retirement from DBHDD with close to 30 years of dedicated service. In case you don’t know Dr. Lawless, she has served in several leadership roles at the Gracewood Campus.
March was replete with lookbacks and milestone markers acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the events when COVID became “real” for each of us. While we might recognize a different day or a specific moment as the beginning of this new reality, together, we have shared a collective historical experience that was also deeply personal.
On any given day, it’s easy to feel burdened by the weight of the global pandemic, anxious about the uncertainties of COVID-19, and restricted by the limitations it spawned. It’s understandable if you find yourself in a constant cycle of frustration and disappointment.
In a time like this one, it becomes essential to celebrate the moments of hope and joy that break through grim milestones and the feelings of isolation or grief.
Good news can recharge us on our exhausting days and accelerate our optimism. Amidst the challenges that remain pressing and real, we have received good news, and it bears repeating.
For all of us worn down by the events of 2020, the New Year has so far offered little relief. Where we thought we might turn the page from 2020 on January 1, we found the same, tiring tests on our energy and optimism: COVID-19 infection rates soared, our healthcare system reached a new level of overburdened and lines swelled at food banks as Americans continued to suffer through the economic consequences of a global pandemic.
I learned this week that the word of the year for 2020 is “pandemic”—not exactly breaking news. I can certainly acknowledge the power that this pandemic has had over our lives in 2020. And yet I want to offer my own word of the year for 2020, and that word is “hope.” For me, our individual and collective sense of hope has also been a driving force in 2020. As we engage in a very different holiday season than our traditional one, I aim to celebrate this gift of hope.
Hello friends, colleagues and supporters. We seem to have turned the page to fall with the emergence of pumpkins, football and changing leaves. These are reminders that despite the uncertainty that has characterized 2020, elements of our existence roll forward, albeit with new practices and precautions, and new opportunities as well. Conversations with friends, partners and stakeholders that rely on DBHDD and our provider network have challenged me to acknowledge the exhaustion and unpredictability we have experienced, and at the same time embrace the joy of small pleasures and reinvigorate our safety net mission.
As we approach the six-month mark since the “Shelter in Place” order, you may be, like me, experiencing a diverse range of emotions on any given day, or any given hour. In March, many of us presumed we would be “over” this pandemic by now. With eyes wide open, we have come to recognize that “over” and “past” are probably not the right words to capture our understanding of COVID-19. Multiple elements of daily life for our staff, providers and the people we serve have been fundamentally altered and we have been challenged to adapt almost everything we do.
The question I hear most often right now is “What next?” I hear it from our neighbors wondering what the start of school will look like. I hear it from families whose children engage in sports activities. I hear it on the lips of local business owners, including my favorite coffee shop, struggling to remain afloat with to-go orders and reduced seating. Closer to home I hear it from my colleagues in the 2 Peachtree location wondering about the viability of our office space and conference rooms. I hear it from providers in our service delivery network, eager to serve as the safety net, but stretched to meet guidelines and demands. I know our hospitals are wondering “what next” as well. Will there be a time when the uncertainty stimulated by COVID19 does not dominate our daily planning and decision-making?
It’s hard to put words to the array of feelings and experiences we have endured in 2020. Each week seems to add new twists and turns to an already complicated storyline. Looking backward, I am able to reflect with pride on the DBHDD hospital system and provider network. Our collective ability to lean into uncertainty and remain focused on our mission to serve has led to remarkable progress and continuity of care for many vulnerable Georgians. But we have also experienced grief, gaps in service, and longing for the way things used to be. Like me, you may recognize some simple activities and pleasures that we have taken for granted. I have also experienced unexpected joy in stories of acts of compassion, empathy, and courage. It is as if the full human experience has been squeezed into the course of a few months.