In Men & Trauma’s last blog post we covered a topic that’s been prevalent among the team for some time now: are we in a global state of cortisol poisoning?
As illustrated in the piece, our team has come to identify the Covid experience as sharing the two primary factors that can lead to an experience being traumatic: feeling hopeless or
helpless, and a perceived threat to one’s life. Obviously there are exceptions to this depending on the individual experience, but for this press release we would like to pivot from that topic into other themes that have been prevalent throughout our investigations.
Findings from numerous media articles focused on mental health paints a picture of a loneliness epidemic, which has resulted in many people struggling with their mental health.
Though Covid may not be solely to blame for this, it’s reasonable to deduce that it has largely contributed to those that are experiencing loneliness problems due to the controls
that were enacted, and the subsequent model that those controls have now pushed the world into.
In an article published by Stuff in February 2023, the findings of Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report were explored. In this piece, it states that almost a quarter of young Kiwis
are suffering from anxiety, fatigue and depression. These areas of concern are further accentuated in another article published by Stuff in October 2023, where official figures
released by the office of the Chief Coroner highlight an increase in suicide rates, with Maori continuing to be disproportionately high among the stats.
This is a problem.
Sure, many of us want to just ‘get on with things’ now that it feels as if Covid is over but, as we’ve suggested, if you were to view it as a traumatic experience in much the same way you
would someone who has been abused, it’s clear that there is a lot of work to go for us to heal as both a nation and a globe.
What’s also concerning with these issues is that it’s occurring alongside a societal model that may be exacerbating things;
If you were to view the current commerce landscape from a satellite view, it’s fairly evident that many of the small engagements that contributed to a sense of community connection have now been replaced by a great volume of less connected measures: self-checkouts, online purchasing, self-service ticket purchasing, food deliveries, the rise of social media, remote working and the digitization of all art mediums. Slowly but surely we are rooting out every banal interaction that up until the last 10 - 20 years were firmly webbed around community placement.
And to be clear, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing - technology evolves, and we should be exploring techniques to combat loneliness outside of our day to day tasks, but it feels like this sprawl of greater efficiencies may be another thread in what’s creating a mass of extreme disconnect. It is difficult to pinpoint what may be the leading cause of such a problem given the complexities of the current world, but the evidence sighted here should be a strong enough suggestion that this is a problem we need to focus on getting fixed.
Many of those doing the work at Men & Trauma have often cited that something they consider to be of great value in the group is how it’s connected them to others, while also giving them an opportunity to be vulnerable among those that have had similar experiences or feel the same way. We’ve come to observe that there’s a sense of togetherness and community spirit that is generated from such a model, and each of us has expressed a type of relief and gratitude towards the group as a result.
If you’re reading this and you’re feeling lonely, don’t be afraid to reach out to those who care for you - they just may be feeling the same way. If at all possible, don’t be afraid to reach out to a local community, express your vulnerability and through virtue of that expression, connect with those you don’t know who may be feeling the same. If we were to put aside the material elements of our lives, the capitalist distractions and allurement of everyday distractions, it feels reasonable to state that honest connection is a desire we all share, and through that shared desire we can alleviate the weight of loneliness that so many feel themselves buckling under.
And should you feel that you need additional support outside these options, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Men & Trauma - we’re here to help.
Be kind to yourself,
The Men & Trauma team.
Welcome to the first Men & Trauma press release!
At Men & Trauma, we dedicate ourselves to the response and facilitation of those that may be working through a traumatic event, no matter how recently or long ago the event may have taken place.
But we also take time each week to talk about how each individual is feeling, and to discuss ideas and theories relating to trauma and the current state of our nation and planet. It is in these sessions that we have found ourselves often discussing a common theme: cortisol poisoning.
First, some background:
Cortisol is a steroid hormone most commonly associated with stress and is produced by the two adrenal glands that sit on top of each kidney. The activation of cortisol optimises our management of stressful situations by enhancing our response to that situation. This could mean more effective decision making, a peak athletic performance, or a more efficient response time in an emergency.
In the right doses, cortisol is an effective hormone that helps us navigate through life’s challenges with greater effectiveness. However, in a situation of ongoing stress, that dosage can tip into a volume that can then become harmful to our body, affecting our decision making, behaviour, stress levels and general health. This is known as cortisol poisoning.
A traumatic event can also commonly trigger an increased cortisol response, simply by virtue of trauma being extremely stressful.
But what constitutes trauma? If we were to take the complex elements that craft a trauma response and reduce them down to a simple definition, it would be a combination of the following two elements:
- a situation that we deem ourselves to be powerless or helpless in and;
- a situation that we perceive to be a threat to our life.
Perhaps you can see where we’re going with this...
Historian and University of Auckland Professor Paul Moon made the following comments to The Post, when asked if we are back to business as usual following the removal of the last remaining Covid restrictions:
“Absolutely not,” adding that not only are we still a very long way from “normal”; we’ll never be returning.
“What people forget is the trauma, not just of the past three years but of the time leading up to the pandemic and those first announcements.
“We were told at the beginning that [many] of us might die, and we had every reason to believe that. When Jacinda Ardern announced that first lockdown we said goodbyes to family, friends and colleagues thinking we may never see them again.
“It was an unprecedented event that caused an unprecedented reaction – the trauma of that doesn’t just go away.”
In the time that’s lapsed since Covid was perceived to ‘finish’, it appears clear to this group that we are navigating constant fatiguing emotions and exhausting physical states. There’s a sense of visceral anger, incurable exhaustion and bizarre decision making that feels evident on a global scale. Given the clear evidence of the impact we’re seeing on work, health, relationships, politics and sociology, as well as the behaviours that we are bearing witness to with each passing week, and taking into consideration the ongoing stressful experience that has been felt by everyone to varying degrees over the past three years, a case for global cortisol poisoning feels
reasonably easy to make. Richard Jeffrey, the Men & Trauma director made the following comment:
“It feels clear, given the evidence, that we are a far stretch from pre-covid behaviours, and that there is a strong likelihood that cortisol poisoning is playing a role in the behaviour that we are seeing. People are hurting, and from what we now know about trauma, it can take years to heal from events that impact us in the way that Covid has.”
Obviously there’s no easy solution because the situation is extremely complex, and we suspect the cycle of behaviour that we are seeing may be something that we are stuck in for some time - we’re each just navigating our way through a globally traumatic experience as best we can, and ‘as best we can’ can take on any number of shapes in the shadow of such enormousness.
So remember, be kind to yourself and step forward lightly. With everything that’s going on out there it’s easy to get lost in the noise, but let’s not confuse boredom with peacefulness - taking a breath and switching off for a moment from what’s happening is okay, because it’s a lot.
Be kind to yourself - it really can go a long way.
Catch you at the next release,
Men & Trauma.