A recent CDC survey of young adults ages 18 to 24 taken during the pandemic showed that 25 percent of them had seriously considered suicide during the prior 30 days. Think of that astounding and alarming finding. One quarter of our young adults were desperate enough to contemplate ending their lives. The pandemic added another painful layer onto the lives of young adults who already are struggling to cope in what has become a troubled and often dangerous world. This has taken a toll on their parents as well. Unlike children struggling with mental health issues, it can be harder to help their young adults when they see signs of trouble. Many young adults don’t live with their parents or even near them. They may shrug off a parent’s words of concern and suggestions to get help with their mental health challenges. I was heartened when my editor at The New York Times realized this issue and suggested that I write a piece that will help parents help their adult child and navigate this often tricky terrain. The result was this piece which provides ways to gently broach the conversation in a way that young adults will listen. I was particularly impressed by the thoughtful comments on the piece which provided even more valuable suggestions and insights. Even though the pandemic is abating, there will no doubt be long-term impacts on this very vulnerable population of young people, so this problem shows no signs of going away any time soon. As the parent of young adults, I learned a great deal from researching this article and I hope it’s helpful to others as well.
As a freelance journalist who has always worked remotely, I have found my daily schedule relatively unchanged since the outbreak of COVID-19. I awake, have my coffee and head directly to my computer to start working on my ongoing stories. The only difference is that I’m sorely missing my regular workouts at my local YMCA; instead I’m trying out online yoga and dance classes. But I’m finding I have less time for that, since I’m busier than ever. Editors have been reaching out regularly to assign me stories related to the epidemic. When my New York Times editor suggested a story on the unique challenges that caregivers of those with dementia face with the outbreak, I thought it was a great idea. And it gave me the chance to explore the ways that these unsung heroes are proceeding. Sometimes as a journalist, you’re able to cross paths with someone who inspires you. That was the case for me. I interviewed K.C. Mehta, who has been caring for his wife for seven years. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when she was 59. Mehta’s greatest concern is taking care of her and he’s trying his best to keep them both safe. Listening to him discuss the complexities of caring for her even under normal circumstances, all without complaint, demonstrated the strength of the many who are silently just trying to persevere. I was so pleased to be able to share Mehta’s story in this article. It provided a glimmer of positivity amidst a climate of despair. And it reinforced the reasons why I so treasure being a freelance journalist.
While many people have found themselves with some welcome time off, quarantined at home in the midst of COVID-19, that’s not the case for journalists, especially those of us who always work remotely. For me, the pace of work has increased as I’ve been assigned articles about various repercussions of the virus. The challenge in writing these stories is that events are unfolding and changing so rapidly that the stories are often outdated before they can be published. This was the situation I faced after a recent visit with my daughter. She had been in Lyon, France, teaching English as part of the Fulbright program. My husband and I had planned to visit her at the end of February. Since the virus hadn’t progressed much beyond China at that point, we kept our plans for the trip, traversing Lyon, Paris and Barcelona and even paying a visit to my 96-year-old Parisian aunt. When I relayed this experience to one of my editors at a publication I regularly write for, he suggested the inter-generational experience we embarked upon as the virus was closing in might make for an interesting piece. He couldn’t make any promises that his editor would agree. But I decided to write the essay anyway. His editor declined to run it. And within a week of my submitting it, there was a full blown pandemic underway. As a result, the story of our commitment to stick to our plans and visit with an elderly aunt in the face of the spreading virus seems irresponsible and cavalier. Keep in mind that when we were there, the situation wasn’t nearly as dangerous as it is now. The publications I usually write for didn’t feel comfortable publishing this essay in such a fast-changing environment, which is understandable, but I didn’t want it to disappear. So I published the piece on Thrive Global. I felt in this instance that having the piece published was a nice way to document this very special journey that I had with my daughter and husband.