Lockdown measures remind me of the prescription of anti-depressants and other psychiatric medicines. They are both harsh, and both are administered in response to a moment of crisis; both often have severe side effects, which in time often obscure the initial malady that required their prescription.
Anti-depressants can be beneficial in stabilizing a patient and alleviating the most distressing symptoms of whatever underlying trauma caused them to present to a doctor in the first place. The logic of medication should be that once a certain stability has been achieved, a less medicinal and more holistic approach should be available to the patient including intensive psycho-therapy, talking therapy and most crucially for any patient, being properly listened to.
This, unfortunately, is what so rarely happens with cases of depression. The initial period of chemically enabled stability is seen as progress, and the primary causes of trauma remain unacknowledged, or only partially addressed.
While the trauma remains essentially untreated, the patient will find himself having his doses upped and reduced, his prescription swapped and changed, leading to him suffering a range of side effects which take centre stage in the narrative of his condition. We become transfixed by the shadow but not the object that casts it.
It is not very different to what we are now experiencing with Covid-19 and our second lockdown. Lockdown is the strongest non-pharmaceutical intervention available. It is the equivalent of ECT bolted through every nerve end of our society. One doesn’t have to look hard to see its devastating side effects.
Like our patient, who hoped that his medically induced stability might create an environment benign and supportive enough to allow him properly to address what lay at the root of his problem. Our first and very lengthy period of lockdown should have been used to confront and mend some of the systemic flaws in our health system.
For decades we have had a two-tier system obscenely tilted in favour of those with private medical insurance. Almost 700,000 people were waiting on a hospital appointment as of the end of May.
We have also out-sourced the care of our most vulnerable to privately run ‘Care Homes’ that are mostly staffed by poorly paid workers. The final years of so many of our parents’ lives, and in time our own, is a for-profit-business. There’s great money to be made in dying.
I am sure that I am not alone in feeling like a child eavesdropping on a parental row – leaning over the bannister upstairs to hear what’s being shouted in the kitchen below – when it comes to the bickering and blaming between NPHET and the government.
'None of those people would have faced being on #PUP, none of them have to tell someone they are losing their job, none of them will have to shutter a business for the last time' – Tánaiste Leo Varadkar on #NPHET #cblive pic.twitter.com/ZAw7sDxGLo
— Claire Byrne Live (@ClaireByrneLive) October 5, 2020
It’s a reckless side show of hopeless administration and even worse leadership. There have been failures in testing, track and trace, and screening at ports and airports. It has just been reported that the UCD lab is to suspend all Covid-19 testing over two weekends due to staffing issues.
A mere 23 ICU beds have been added since the pandemic began, despite Ireland having the second lowest number per capita in the European Union when we entered the crisis.
80 people on trolleys at UH Limerick on a day when we learn that only 23 additional critical care beds have been delivered nationally since March and publication of the HSE Winter Plan is delayed for a further week. The State must step up, not just individual citizens#COVID19 pic.twitter.com/QGx2y5rnTh
— Michael McNamara TD (@MlMcNamaraTD) September 16, 2020
Fix what is broken and we might have a better tool for confronting the virus.
Now we are patronized with talk about ‘behaving well,’ and maybe being able to enjoy Christmas. We were encouraged to come out and clap overworked medical staff rather than see them receive an immediate increase in salary, something which the government lost no time in awarding themselves, just as hundreds of thousands adjusted to living on €350 or less a week.
Covid-19 has held an unflinching lens to the structural inequalities in our country. Those who can, work from home, their salaries largely unaffected. Mainstream radio and print media run nauseating life style features about how much money people are saving, while another grubbier realty is far closer to the truth, that hundreds of thousands of workers are down many thousands of euros since March 13th.
We are a great country for cake sales and 5k sponsored fun runs, but not so good at drawing a line in the proverbial sand and saying enough is enough. We acquiesce too much, and are now complicit in our predicament.
Did anyone else find an eerie symmetry – a dark poetry – to how on the very day we went into a second lockdown, our government voted to seal the Tuam Mother and Bay Home files for thirty years?
As we lock down now once again, we seem to be burying our past, perpetuating the shame, punishing again those who suffered in denying them light and justice. We live in the strangest and most disturbing times.
Nobody told me there’d be days like these.