The following letter is an open response from Wilton resident Jennifer McNamara to State Sen. Will Haskell about his call to create a memorial for Connecticut’s COVID victims.
Dear Sen. Haskell:
Although I applaud your intention to build a memorial “to help process the catastrophes we witness and the holes they leave in our hearts,” I’d like to offer an alternative use of taxpayer dollars.
Yes, as a country and a community we have a history of building memorials and statues. Usually, though, they are done with the intention to commemorate the sacrifice of our military and first responders–those who gave their lives so the others would not succumb under the oppression of fascism, communism, terrorism or slavery. These monuments act as a reminder to all that we have to be grateful for.
As a licensed clinical social worker who is trained in two trauma-based treatment modalities, I have never seen any research or data showing that monuments “help us process catastrophes.” In actuality, the contrary might be more true, that often remembrances can be triggering, as has been my experience working with 9/11 survivors.
If I could humbly suggest that public money would be better spent providing mental health resources to the communities impacted by the pandemic and subsequent quarantine.
What I can report as a mental health clinician is that we are in a crisis. I share an office space with two colleagues and within a one week time period, the three of us hospitalized seven people–five of whom were adolescents. In speaking with other colleagues, most clinicians in private practice and psychiatric hospitals throughout the state have waiting lists. Many community behavioral health clinics are also at capacity and do not have trauma trained or certified clinicians. I know many are too aware of the fact that a significant number of highly trained clinicians in Fairfield County do not take insurance because of low reimbursement rates and endless red tape. What we need is taxpayer money to help defray the cost of quality mental health care.
In addition, the Black Lives Matter movement has deepened our awareness as a community that the socially and economically oppressed amongst us face unfair disadvantages, which include access to adequate mental health care.
The best way for everyone of all ages, races, colors and creeds to process the trauma of COVID-19 is to have access to clinicians who have been trained in trauma therapy, i.e. EMDR, IFS, EFT and Neurofeedback, just to name a few.
If there are members of our community who would like to memorialize this pandemic and honor the deceased in some way, the solicitation of private funds can be used to do that.
Please, Sen. Haskell, use public money and your efforts to foster real healing so that people can do more than remember but go on to live joyful, meaningful, and productive lives.
Jennifer Ellis McNamara, LCSW