The collective trauma from COVID-19

Key points

  • Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic can cause collective trauma or long-term psychological effects shared by a large group of people.
  • Mass trauma can be caused by events such as wars, natural disasters, mass shootings, genocides, and epidemics.
  • Such incidents can lead to increased vigilance, increased fear, and challenges to individual and collective identities.

When dealing with diseases such as COVID-19, most of the focus is on disease prevention and treatment. The direct impact is the most worrying, but it is also important to consider the long-term collective trauma of the pandemic.

Collective trauma refers to the psychological upheaval shared by a group of people who have all experienced the event. This type of trauma can affect people of any size, including entire countries or societies.

Causes of collective trauma

Major events witnessed or experienced by a large group of people affect people’s feelings and behaviors-sometimes such events can lead to cultural and social changes. There are many events that can cause collective trauma in a group:

  • War/military conflict
  • Terrorist attacks
  • natural disaster
  • Economic disaster
  • Mass shooting/violence
  • Genocide
  • Epidemic

There are different types of collective trauma. Some are immediate and have a relatively limited duration. Examples include 9/11 and natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria. Others are less direct, but much longer, such as pandemics, economic recessions or military conflicts.

Sometimes these events have been witnessed, but in some cases, they have been observed through the mass media. The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 is an example. Many people witnessed the incident through live television and media exposure after the incident.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a global event that will have an impact on the mental health of individuals and groups. The social and economic impact remains to be seen, but the pandemic is likely to have a long-term impact on social and mental health.

History of collective trauma

To better understand the potential co-effects of the pandemic, it may be helpful to look at some of the long-term effects of past events. Some examples of real events leading to collective trauma include:

Great Depression

The severe global economic depression in the 1930s had a profound and lasting impact on the collective psychology of the United States. This economic contraction had a major impact on personal mental health during the crisis-during the Great Depression, the suicide rate rose by 22.8%.Depression has also had a more lasting impact on the American population, leaving many people feeling anxious and vulnerable.

Second World War

The psychological trauma of the Second World War and the Holocaust had a lasting impact on those who experienced these experiences and future generations. The study found that although Holocaust survivors showed extraordinary resilience in the face of trauma, the psychological effects, including increased PTSD symptoms and decreased mental health, lasted for decades.

The lingering effects of the Holocaust also left its mark on the mental health of parents, family structure, stress levels, and perceived quality of parenting, all of which had an impact on the children of Holocaust survivors.

Attack on September 11, 2001

More than 100,000 people directly witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center, and millions more watched the event on live television or watched replayed video clips in the following days, weeks, and months.

Research shows that the incident led to some obvious negative reactions, including religious discrimination and political intolerance against Muslims or people who are believed to be similar or related to the attackers.

Great Recession

The economic contraction that occurred in 2008 has had a major impact on physical and mental public health. Studies have shown that it leads to a decline in self-rated health and fertility, as well as an increase in psychological distress, suicide and morbidity.

The impact of collective trauma

At the social level, research has shown that some of the potential lasting effects on future generations include:

  • Increase personal and collective fear
  • Impaired national pride
  • Feeling of humiliation
  • Identity crisis
  • Increased vulnerability
  • Increase vigilance against new threats

People’s previous belief in society was shaken or even shattered. People may question the future of their society and whether it is safe or wise to keep in touch with the group.

The nature of collective trauma sometimes makes it difficult to study the long-term impact on individuals and society. For example, although there is a large amount of research on the impact of the 9/11 incident, there is very little research on the developmental impact that an attack may have on children who have experienced the event.

The reason for this is because almost every American child is exposed to the crisis, so it is difficult to find participants who did not share this experience as a control.

Mental distress

Psychological distress after trauma is common. In a study examining the direct and long-term effects of 9/11, researchers surveyed more than 3,400 people and found that media exposure was related to increased psychological distress. This suffering includes acute stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and continued fear of subsequent terrorist attacks.

Intergenerational effect

Collective trauma may be passed on to offspring. Researchers believe that these traumatic historical events created collective memories.This collective memory transcends personal memory, and transcends the lives of people who have experienced these experiences, and has an inter-generational impact on future generations.

The impact of inequality

Collective trauma is not always equal. Even within a group, people may be affected and bear different traumatic burdens. Although we may all be experiencing the same storm, this does not mean that we are all the same boat.

Although everyone may experience different psychological effects, the greatest burden often falls on the most vulnerable people. The inability to obtain resources and sufficient support can exacerbate this trauma.

Change belief

Collective trauma can affect attitudes and beliefs. People who have experienced trauma may form specific opinions due to the event. For example, researchers believe that the collective experience of the September 11 terrorist attack, in addition to fostering xenophobia, prejudice, and intolerance, also increased the perceived risk of external threats.

The collective trauma of COVID-19

All aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic can cause personal and collective trauma.In a quick review published in 2020 LancetResearchers have found that isolation and isolation can cause many negative psychological effects, including confusion, anger, and even PTSD.

Interruptions in daily life and prolonged isolation can also have a negative impact on children. Experts suggest that communication with parents, supportive online resources, and online mental health services may help children deal with some of these negative effects.

Research on past pandemics, including early SARS and Ebola outbreaks, provides some clues to the potential long-term collective impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Common reactions include panic, depression, despair, anxiety, stress, sadness, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

How to reduce collective trauma

In addition to being aware of the potential impact of the pandemic on individuals, the response of communities and society may help mitigate long-term negative effects. In order to minimize the negative psychological effects of isolation and isolation, the researchers suggest that officials should take measures to notify citizens, provide resources, and shorten the isolation period as much as possible.

Limit media exposure

A study of the 9/11 sequelae found that people who reported watching more television coverage of the attack experienced greater negative psychological effects.People who watched news reports about the attack for four to seven hours a day were four times more likely to report PTSD-like symptoms.

Keep in touch with others

Even if social distancing needs to limit your face-to-face contact with others, maintaining social contact is also important. With the help of technology, you can be creative and continue to meet with friends, family, colleagues and others in a virtual way.

Rely on trusted information

If people cannot accurately and realistically measure the risk of threats, they will experience greater stress and panic. Although emotions can sometimes affect judgment, especially in stressful situations, studies have shown that people are very good at accurately assessing potential hazards if they obtain reliable and reliable information.It is essential to help people make the right choices by providing honest and transparent facts.

Use mental health resources

Even if you cannot visit a mental health professional in person, there are some online options that can help. Due to the pandemic, many therapists are providing services online, and there are also many online treatment sites that can help during this period.

What this means to you

The collective trauma has left its mark on everyone and society as a whole. It disrupts our understanding of how the world works and our place in it-it can change the way we see ourselves and others.

This type of trauma can be destructive, but it can also be transformed. Although we can only guess what the ultimate psychological impact of the pandemic might be, we can hope that it helps strengthen the bonds that hold us together.

Gilad Hirschberger, associate professor of psychology at the Israel Interdisciplinary Center and psychologist Gilad Hirschberger, said: “While traumatic memory may foster paranoia and paralyzed post-traumatic prospects, it may also be gained from trauma. Meaning to stimulate growth.” The article was published in Frontiers of Psychology.

He believes that this means that in the end it may be “emphasizing the resilience of the group and its ability to recover and change after a disaster.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.