Talking about depression and anxiety on the radio

I'm definitely not alone in this, but I am actually more afraid of the changes that the coronavirus is causing than of the virus itself. This is causing me a lot of anxiety.

Today's episode of On Point, a podcast from WBUR Radio in Boston that is broadcast on NPR, discusses "How to Stay Resilient and Mentally Healthy During the Outbreak." I encourage you to listen to it.

In this period of social stress, the demand of social distancing runs counter to what humans have evolved to do: Seek out support and connection. This is particularly troubling for me, as I have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and have devoted so much over so many years to master the skills to do what I now seem to have been cut off from doing. I also frequently suffer from depression.

One thing that you can do if you are worried about high levels of anxiety and depression that others you know may be feeling because of this situation, and specifically if they may be considering suicide or related actions is to call 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or 741741 (Crisis Text Line).

CLOSING QUESTION (Leave your responses in the comments)

Are you more afraid of the virus itself, or the changes to your way of life that it has caused?

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  1. I recognize that for some people, this may not seem comforting or creative, but from a scientific sociological perspective, I find that while recognizing that there are some unknowns, human behavior is patterned and often predictable. So, there are certain behaviors (whether individual, groups or societal) that we would expect to occur. In fact, in October 2019, the Center for Strategic and International Studies gathered a group of experts together to think critically and creatively about how society would react if we had a global pandemic (

    If I had children, I would likely be engaging them in such an exercise to determine all the social institutions and their parts that have been impacted by the pandemic, and their manifest and latent functions, so that possible actions could be taken to decrease the negative impact and highlight any opportunities that could arise and been taken to accentuate the positive. In addition, I would challenge them to look for power differentials in this process, and pay attention to the messages being communicated and how these messages are interpreted. Below is a very useful tool to help us do this. Just thought I would share for all the self-identified and/or aspiring wonks out there!

    Applied Sociologist’s Guide to Applying Theory

    Functionalism (this one focuses on intended purposes of our systems/social institutions and the unintended consequences of these systems and well as any given function/behavior)
    1. Start with this basic assumption: Society is a set of interdependent parts.
    2. Choose a social situation. In this case the current pandemic.
    3. What are the needs of this situation? That is, what is supposed to be done here?
    4. Think about the situation as a system. Ask yourself: What are the parts that make up the system? What function does each part serve? What are the parts relationships with the other parts?
    5. Draw a diagram inside the needs circle with arrows that show the connections between the social parts.
    6. Are there any “gaps” between what is supposed to happen and what the system is able to do?

    Conflict Theory (this one focuses on power differentials between those with greater resources and life chances (dominant groups/the have's) and those with less resources and life chances (subordinate groups/the have not's))
    1. Start with this basic assumption: Conflict is frequent and social change is certain.
    2. Choose a social situation. Again the pandemic.
    3. What groups have more power to control other people and the outcomes of the situation? List them.
    4. What values, interests, and goals does the group have in this situation?
    5. What groups have less power and influence over the outcomes? What values, interests, and goals does the group have in this situation?
    6. Does the group with power think they can achieve their goals? Does the group without power think they can achieve their goals?

    Symbolic Interactionist Theory (this one focuses on the messages that are being communicated to us about the pandemic, and how these messages are interpreted by different groups)
    1. Start with this basic assumption: Societies and persons in them are guided by the way things are collectively defined.
    2. Select a social situation. Again the pandemic.
    3. What are the different definitions of the situation? What are the characteristics of the people holding these different definitions?
    4. What influences their definitions?
    5. How does their definition influence how they behave in daily social life?
    6. How does it influence how they interact together?
    7. How do these definitions influence how people act?

    Extracted from: Steele, Stephen F. and Jammie Price, 2008. Applied Sociology: Terms, Topics, Tools, and Tasks. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Wadsworth. (p. 18).


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