They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later — do yours.
Jon Stewart to Congress, June 11, 2019
THE comedian Jon Stewart, better known on this side of the Atlantic for hosting a satirical news show on Comedy Central, also has played an important role over the last number of years in advocating for the responders of 9/11 to receive proper benefits and supports from the Federal Government.
It’s hard to fathom that those who threw themselves in harm’s way to protect other in the face of unknown terror, would be left to twist in the wind. Except, we know all about groups here being left behind.
The last 12 months have primarily centred around our physical health — that is trying to keep as many people as possible healthy either by avoiding contracting Covid-19 or freeing up hospital capacity to address the issues that those with Covid have.
Whether or not that is a success is still the subject of Government action or inaction, depending which side of the political spectrum you fall on. After World War 2, the Marshall Plan directed the equivalent of $130 billion to Europe to aid economic repair. We need a similar plan now to ensure we can rebuild the nations mental health after the pummelling it has taken since March 2020. But it must be ring fenced, it must be multi- annual and can never be raided for short term populism.
What needs to be addressed now is the ever growing crisis in mental health that is coming down the train tracks across all age platforms. From young children unable to engage with peers to older individuals who have found themselves isolated for months on end, the mental health ramifications need to be addressed now and not in a party political way but in cross society fashion that ensures all groups receive adequate funding and resources in the ways that best suit those groups. The issues are already being examined in a paper for the Office of the National Clinical Advisor and Group Lead in Mental Health, Health Service Executive but it’s important that we identify the groups that need intervention like the paper does:
Not only the physical impact, but the long term PTSD impact that may occur to those who come through COVID, no matter the level of the virus
Families of those who were bereaved due to infection
The inability to grief within our communities affects family first and foremost. Any grief can be delayed on the best of times, but if there is further delays to your grief through the lack of face to face contact in the community, that impact is greater.
From Healthcare workers to carers to retail staff and delivery personnel keeping our supply lines open. There is a huge gamut of mental, physical and workers rights impacts being strained.
Those who have fewer social and economic resources
The set-up where the 5km limit is also linked to the eviction ban falls heavy on those with precarious housing situations. Linked with an economy that now pervades the home with working hours, there is the added social media ‘doom scrolling’ that is across all platforms
Extremes of the population demographic
Those over 70 years old are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection while children of all ages see disruption and reduction in social capacities.
Youths and Students (15-25)
With issues ranging from State Exam uncertainty to the loss of social engagement , dating and general ‘learning of life’ moments across these formative year, the prevalence of an online only life has yet to show many positives.
Individuals with an intellectual disability
Individuals and families with intellectual disability found themselves cut off in the first lockdown and struggling since to catch up to the point where they were. Despite funding to the sector, there remains high waiting lists for physical and mental intervention, the linger which will exacerbate the impacts across all age groups and within family units also.
Individuals who are pregnant or in the post-partum period
It has been well documented the sudden shift in the birthing and after care process with different hospitals imparting different policies for birthing partners. The lack of engagement, the lack of having a partner there in the immediate aftermath of birth along with a reduced post-natal care in the community structure is a ticking time-bomb.
Whatever it takes
The scientists will continue to compile the evidence, it is up to the political leaders of the day to ensure that funding is ring fenced to protect and mitigate the impacts. Whatever it takes. We did not spare the horses to keep funding flowing to business when the pandemic hits.
It is already apparent from anecdotal evidence.
Parents of young children are seeing regression in social cues from their children as childcare and early learning is restricted and peer to peer engagement has reduced to own homes.
We now are seeing the reports of isolation in our nursing homes for the last number of months, not to mention the mental trauma that older people, once guaranteed the free rein of their retired lives to enjoy freely, are limited to their own homes.
The report has briefly touched on the impacts in direct provision and those experiencing homelessness in the middle of pandemic. Further research and funding will be needed for those specific areas to ensure speedy intervention that is not a desktop exercise.
All frontline workers deserve our help and assistance, no longer our weekly applause.
Within our hospital network there is an inherent PTSD dilemma facing not just patients of ICU but those who work in ICU, night after night, day after day. The paramedics who have dealt with the issues outside of a secure environment. The porters who continue to work throughout the night. The junior doctors, the registrars, the nurses, including student nurses and back from retirement nurses, who continue to pull on the masks every shift even though the weekly applauses on the doorstep have ceased. All the hashtags of Front-line heroes. They are our 9/11 responders. They will need dedicated interventions not op-eds. They need step by step processes established. All the above groups and more do.
We need the funding now. We need to set in motion the plans now and establish the structures to deliver them. We don’t need this to be a political football, we need action.
We need a time-bound cross party group to look at the impacts and resolve to deal with the matter, with full Government support, regardless of the parties that hold Government in the future.
The people are at one of their lowest ebbs since this pandemic began. All political parties, all civic society groups need to band together, personalities cast aside, to deliver a brighter tomorrow.