The number of incidents that appear to be related to mental health issues is on the rise across the world. Recently, a 59-year-old bus driver died in Bayonne in southwest France after he was attacked by passengers who refused to wear face masks. In Greece, meanwhile, a man wielding an ax attacked employees at a tax office in Kozani in the north, leaving three people seriously injured.
The coronavirus pandemic has no doubt “triggered mental processes and adverse shifts in vulnerable and non-vulnerable individuals,” as confirmed by a survey carried out by the Dianeosis think-tank in Greece. The study was based on data drawn from the country’s psychological support helpline 10306. As every big change tends to transform the ground we stand on into quicksand, the traumatized self can often veer into uncontrolled territory, often resulting in a trail of horror and death.
In the case of Greece, the coronavirus outbreak came in the wake of a lengthy financial crisis already considered as the cause of a nationwide depression, as it were. In this case, fear, combined with grief and surprise, have created an explosive mix that triggers pathological anxiety and painful depression.
The emotional mood ushered by the pandemic is extremely unhealthy and the psychological impact is becoming all the more unpredictable.
The issue of mental health is as pressing as the economy, the labor market and national security. Democracies cannot survive or prosper unless they realize that mental pain requires support and treatment; unless they understand the need for a public health system that can provide patients with help and meaningful prospects.
Mental health hotlines and other technologically advanced services are certainly welcome and necessary, but they are not enough.
The pressure cooker has been boiling for some years now. The rattling valve will occasionally give in to the pressure, giving way to acts of unthinkable violence. Families and communities will sweep under the rug individual actions that evidently pose a threat to society.
Every man reacts to the challenge of the time in their own way. However, every manifestation of an ailing condition – from crude cynicism to delinquency, and from profound cruelty to furor – can easily remove that safety valve. And that’s when the mental issue becomes a social and, eventually, political issue.