Healthcare professionals around the world are beginning to identify a range of COVID-19 related mental health issues that are certain to create new challenges for society. People are in serious distress about the pandemic itself and because of the devastating second- and third-order effects of record unemployment and the overall negative economic impact. Safety and security professionals must be prepared to meet the challenges of a new normal.
The new normal is not the old normal. Society is emerging from a prolonged period of imposed self-isolation. This has been an incredibly stressful time and the behavioral stresses created as a result remain to be seen. Security professionals everywhere need to be prepared to meet the challenges of a post-COVID shutdown world.
A variety of mental health issues relate directly to people who have been infected by the COVID-19 virus, as well as those not infected, but still forced into sheltered quarantine.
Recent research published in the Lancet Psychiatry Journal noted that other pandemic illnesses in the past have passed into the central nervous systems of patients and called for more research to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on the human brain and nervous system. The Journal specifically called for better monitoring of mental health as part of a coordinated response to the pandemic.
As a result of the pandemic quarantine closures, estimates are that more than 40 million people have lost their jobs in this country. We don’t know when these jobs will be coming back, or if they even will. The depressed economy is taking an unprecedented toll. Unemployment leads to desperation and desperate people often make poor choices. Historically, these situations have resulted in an increase in violence, including armed robberies, suicides, and active shootings.
The documented pandemic spike in firearm sales adds to the concern. NBC News reported that gun sales and federal background checks rose to an all-time high in March. In fact, the FBI conducted 3.7 million background checks in March, the highest total since the national instant check system for buyers was launched in 1998 and 1.1 million higher than the number conducted in March 2019.
The combination of rapidly increasing gun sales and the emergence of COVID-related mental health concerns means that schools, houses of worship, malls, movie theaters, and owners of every other venue where people gather must take all available steps to enhance the safety and security of their spaces—especially as these venues begin to reopen after prolonged closures.
The default for physical security has long been locking the doors and adding surveillance cameras. Unfortunately, in more than 30 percent of venues where active shooter events occurred, installed access control systems were ineffective or defeated.
Additional statistics show that, on average, the 911 call is not made for five minutes. This is time that is critical to saving lives. Automated gunfire detection systems are an active means of alerting law enforcement and first responders in the critical first moments of a tragedy.
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