Monday Memo: Coronavirus, Mental Health Crisis

| March 16, 2020

By Holland Cooke
Consultant

WASHINGTON, DC — Schools and colleges are shutting down, games-not-canceled are played in empty arenas, some store shelves are bare, and people are walking around wearing surgical masks.  St. Patrick’s Day parades were canceled in Ireland! Ireland!

While we fear a deadly respiratory disease for which there is no vaccine, Coronavirus is also a MENTAL health threat.

Because the pandemic story is nearer the beginning than the end, “wash your hands” now sounds old and condescending, and remaining political talk media deniers validate a tired caricature.  At this stage, news-your-listeners-can-use most is coping advice.

Recommendation: As I did on my TV show last week, interview a psychotherapist.  Suggested questions:

  • How have changes in life’s routine in the last month upset the people you counsel?
  • How can parents talk about this with their children?
  • Getting through this short-term is one thing. But now the stock market is a scary rollercoaster; and for several years, economists have been warning that we’re overdue for a recession.  Are  you hearing “401-K anxiety” or other longer-term “future fear?”
  • We’re getting emails from airlines and other businesses we patronize, detailing proactive steps they’re taking to disinfect, etc. How much do these assurances help?
  • We’re a social culture. When we go to a game, we cheer the team alongside other fans wearing matching jerseys.  Donald Trump packs arenas for his rallies.  And in troubled times, when our FAITH gives us strength, places of worship might close!  How hurtful would it be not-to-assemble?
  • About “cabin fever.” As more Americans self-quarantine, they’re stocking up on THINGS.  How can we prepare EMOTIONALLY to be holed-up at home for a couple weeks?
  • Coronavirus coverage is relentless. It is what the news media call “a great story,” because it is so vital and changing so rapidly.  Is there emotional value in taking an occasional “news sabbatical?”

Repurpose the aircheck as a “Coping With Coronavirus” podcast.

If your shrink can stick around after the interview for caller Q+A, “the doctor is in, the meter is off.”  If not, invite callers’ stories.  They have ‘em.  And, as Dr. Laura’s success demonstrated when talk radio hit its stride 20+ years ago, eavesdropping on callers’ stories is powerfully seductive.

Holland Cooke (HollandCooke.com) is a media consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of the e-book “Holland Cooke: Greatest Hits” from Talkers Books.  Click the ad banner in the right-hand column on this page for an instant download.  And he hosts “The Big Picture” TV show Friday nights at 7ET on RT

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Category: Advice