Election Day came, Election Day went. Each American experienced the ensuing, nail-biting days differently. We are delighted that several disability allies – from both parties – won their races. We look forward to partnering with them and others in the future.
Disability or no disability, the voting process during a pandemic was a feat. This feat was followed by the stress and/or anxiety of The Count, regardless of the candidate we supported. With the hyper-focus of the election now behind us, we are still left with this deadly pandemic and the health and employment challenges that come with it.
Nowhere are these challenges felt more keenly than amongst people with disabilities and those who love us. The CDC recognizes that disabled people in the pandemic have a harder time both due to exacerbation of underlying health conditions and greater difficulty in adhering to safety guidelines like social distancing. Our already significant challenges in the field of employment become even more difficult as broader unemployment skyrockets. Also skyrocketing are our related mental and emotional stressors.
Our tradition teaches us that all of Israel stands for one another. While probably of legal origin, we have come to understand that this can mean celebrating together in times of joy and supporting one another in times of struggle. I urge you to reach out to your community if you’re looking for support. And if you have emotional strength to offer, offer it up to your friends and loved ones.
As powerful as love and friendship are, however, the mental and emotional stressors that we face require strategies, expertise, and mental health professionals. The Jewish Federations of North America has put together a treasure trove of resources building from the Jewish community and the Jewish tradition to support us through this stressful era. You can find it at https://www.jewishtogether.org/for-the-self. The broader website, www.Jewishtogether.org, has many other wonderful types of support.
Beyond the Jewish world, RespectAbility’s secular policy team has identified a number of other great supports to share:
The National Alliance of Mental Illness has provided this webpage of mental health resources. My favorites are these videos that can be accessed from home. They cover important ground, providing clear information about the disease but also its social implications. Isolation and its effects on mental health are currently a particular risk. These videos and links to mental health care providers and support groups focus on treating loneliness, isolation and depression.
The World Health Organization has guidelines that cover different situations. It is important to remember that mental health stressors affect a number of community situations and relationships – from the disabled persons themselves to their families and caregivers and even their community at large. These can intersect in a number of unpredictable ways. This is where this guide shines, tackling a range of relationships and outcomes.
The American Psychiatric Association has provided training materials for caretakers – both professionals and nonprofessionals. Yes, these challenging times leave caretakers and professionals grappling as well. This resource includes plenty of resources for psychiatrists and therapists but also provides training, news updates and ethical guidelines that can be understood by the layperson. It includes materials for different situations: For example, one guide discusses how to help homebound children who are especially impacted by social isolation.
Americas’ Health Insurance Plans is a trade association that provided a compendium of information. It is not easy to navigate health insurance systems even in the best of times. Hence, this compendium covers the United States health insurance landscape in a time of coronavirus, covering divergent areas from prevention to testing to treatment.
RespectAbility also has a number of resources on our own website.
As we come to a time that many describe as the most stressful election in living memory, I close by urging you take care of yourself. Even as our tradition understands the preciousness of each individual, we remember the obligations to support one another.
As we enter what I hope will be for you and for us all a Shabbat of great Shalom (wholeness and peace), I hope that you feel supported knowing of these resources, feel welcomed regardless of who you cast your vote for, and feel your RespectAbility community is here with you as we support one another.
Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom,
Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership