The L in the Mental Health Action Plan stands for Listening Nonjudgmentally. During this step I've been listening to people from different races, religions, and sexes. All of the concerns that I've been hearing are pretty much the same during this time. People are scared, people are depressed, people are anxious. An idle mind is the devils playground. During multiple stay at home orders, people are only thinking of the worst possible scenario.
"According to CNN/Fox News I'm going to catch #Coronavirus and I'm going to die". This is how 6/10 of the conversations that I have daily start. Many of our days start with checking social media on our phones and getting the news there. Facebook has 2.4 billion monthly active users according to a February 2020 report by Statista. The people that I talk to are getting their information from these 2.4 BILLION people who are on Facebook.
The most important part of listening nonjudmentally is the nonjudmentally part. I'v talked to people who want to kill Asians, hard core conservatives, worried single mothers, and millennials who refuse to stay inside. Every day I talk to people who say things that I do not personally agree with. However, as someone who holds a Mental Health First Aid certification it is not my position to interject with my personal opinion when someone is facing a mental health emergency.
"I just bought a gun because I'm not sure what is going to happen during this pandemic". This puts me between a rock and a hard place. This is a virus, you cannot shoot it. When talking to someone who is facing a mental health emergency weapons in the home will always raise a red flag. So when this comes up in a conversation I will ask a couple of questions. The first I ask is "why did you purchase a gun". What I gathered from multiple conversations is that people are afraid of criminals using this pandemic as an excuse to commit more crime.
Back to listening nonjuegementally: it doesn't matter what my view on guns is. As long as I don't hear the individual is planning to commit suicide or harm others I continue to listen. Another factor that I am hearing during the pandemic is a raise in substance abuse. Many stores are closing, cutting hours, and limiting the number of people who can enter. However, liquor stores are doing business as usual. Self medication is on the rise as people turn to alcohol to cope with social isolation and depression.
With so many mental health factors threatening sobriety and mental health factors the L in the Mental Health Action Plan is a very important step. You should always listen more than you speak, and there is no better place to practice that than here in this pandemic we are facing.