People’s responses to disasters help predict their response to the pandemic, Elizabeth Tracey reports


Disasters have been happening for a long time now, and so have studies of them. Karen Swartz, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins, reminds us that we can view our current predicament through the lens of history, and perhaps regain some calm.

Swartz: Any time there’s a disaster, whether it’s a hurricane, or a global pandemic, there’s a predictable psychological response. Early on the entire community will rally to the challenge. This early positive response, with an improvement in psychological wellbeing, is predictably followed by a period of exhaustion and disillusionment when you have a disaster that’s lethal, that goes on for a long time, that has a lot of ambiguity. That’s when you have a disaster of uncertainty. This combination is a setup for the greatest number of psychological consequences.  :33

As increasing rates of mental illness worldwide attest, even if you don’t become infected with Covid-19 you may still experience threats to your health. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.