Wisconsin May Be Open, But The Pandemic's Traumatic Impact Has Just Begun, Says Milwaukee Doctor

May 29, 2020

Even though many Wisconsin businesses are reopening and activities are resuming, the presence of the coronavirus can cause a sense of loss in safety and stability for some people. That’s according to Dr. Emily Mazzulla.

“I think we have not seen the end of the traumatic impact. I think it's just beginning,” Mazzulla says. She is the Marquette University Director of SWIM Collaboration and Innovation. Its mission is to drive community-based collaboration to address trauma.

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Mazzulla says among people in certain categories, the pandemic can be a new stressor or exacerbate existing stressors. For instance, she mentions people facing food or housing insecurity and those working on the front lines.

“They may fear for their safety day in and day out. And that might last for the duration of the pandemic, not simply during the stay at home orders,” continues Mazzulla.

Most businesses and activities have been given the green light — and many are putting safety measures in place. Some communities like Milwaukee still have closures.

“Just because we have opened our state doesn't mean that it changes the risk for an elderly person going to the grocery store or going back to work or kids going back to school if they have a preexisting medical condition ... It's still concerning,” Mazzulla says.

She says there are multiple ways the pandemic can cause trauma on an individual level and as a collective traumatic event. Mazzulla says research shows prolonged trauma exposure can have psychological and physical consequences, including post-traumatic stress symptoms and cardiovascular disease.

As people come out of trauma, Mazzulla says they may change how they view the world and their place in it.

“There's a concept in the field of traumatic stress or trauma that survivors of traumatic events often describe a search for meaning in the period following those traumatic events. That's things like change relationships, seeing new possibilities, identifying being stronger because of the experience but also recognizing vulnerabilities and greater appreciation for life,” Mazzulla explains.

In the meantime, to mitigate stress, Mazzulla suggests people look for ways to establish a sense of safety and stability. That could be through things like prayer, meditation, or developing a routine for life during the coronavirus pandemic.

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