When I started my career 15 years ago, I naively said I would like a job where there aren’t a lot of politics. Little did I know that my job and profession would be so strongly affected by national politics a decade and a half later.
I study human behavior and can usually conceptualize behaviors fairly easily. I have been stumped in the past four months. Truly stumped. Four months ago, we were having national discussions about race and equality, and now all I hear about are masks. We live in a nation with a plentiful supply of vaccine; other countries are begging for this. We use our privilege to turn a blind eye and yell across the aisle, so to speak, about freedom.
Somehow the doctors and nurses who were hailed as heroes 18 months ago are villains with agendas. I know many doctors on the front line, and their agenda is to stop the carnage of this virus and go home at night and keep their families safe. Health care workers are worn out and morally injured. My prediction is that individuals who may previously have worked for 30 or more years may not make it another 15. Our young doctors and nurses are seeing unprecedented times and death early in their careers: Some will not choose to continue. Who will fill those gaps? I am not on the front lines — I am in the hospital seeing patients since day one of this pandemic — I am concerned that we will have a drastic reduction in the psychiatric workforce in the coming years due to moral injury.
Public health measures are not new and have been in place for decades. Children have had to have vaccinations to go to school for years. There is a bit of confirmation bias in play: Since most people haven’t seen measles, they operate under a bias that it didn’t exist or wasn’t a big deal without understanding that public health initiatives and vaccines accomplished that. Before social media and other cultural changes, I have yet to fully wrap my brain around families and children gladly accepted a vaccine to prevent many illnesses.
My colleagues are reporting that people are dying in droves: unvaccinated ones. There are now places where the pediatric intensive care units are full. Do not let someone tell you it doesn’t affect children: It does.
I am not asking you to do anything my family and I haven’t done.
Please vaccinate and mask. Your life and those around you are depending on it.
Courtney Markham-Abedi is a psychiatrist.
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