Woman who destroyed mask display in Target: ‘Mental illness has been really something that has not been addressed as a result of this pandemic’

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The stress and fear of COVID-19 can take their toll.

Melissa Rein Lively, the woman who filmed herself tearing down a mask display in early July at a Target TGT, +0.31% in Scottsdale, Ariz. and posted it on social media, says she spent a week in a mental-health facility after the incident, and is using the public meltdown as a warning to others to seek help for issues related to mental health, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think mental illness has been really something that has not been addressed as a result of this pandemic,” Rein Lively, who said she received death threats after the July 4 incident, told USA Today, “because what happened to me was scary and it changed my life forever. I felt I had absolutely no control over my actions.”

Rein Lively, the chief executive and founder of a public-relations firm, said, “It’s going to take a long time for me to rebuild the trust from people, you know as I get my life and career back on track. I love what I do and am passionate about what I do and I’m going to fight this.” The video has been viewed on Twitter TWTR, +1.50% over 10 million times.

The very public meltdown led people online to dub her “Arizona Karen,” the name used for white women who are regarded as acting privileged or entitled, and refuse to wear face masks in stores or social distance, and argue with staff over the issues and/or call the police on Black people for no reason. But it’s also a reminder that mental-health issues are caught up in the mix, too.

Pandemics can be stressful,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says. The CDC says fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on, can all adversely impact your mental health. A recent Census Bureau survey found a surge in depression-related mood disorders during the pandemic.

Health authorities are concerned about the impact of the pandemic and job losses on people’s mental health, and some say it could lead to tragic outcomes. The growing epidemic of “deaths of despair” in the U.S. is also increasing due to the pandemic — and another 75,000 more people will likely die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide, according to recent research.

Trump has vacillated between heeding the advice of public-health experts and bending to the views of medical professionals on the importance of wearing face masks.

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The study, released in May by Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, said that projections of additional “deaths of despair” range from 27,644, assuming a quick economic recovery and the smallest impact from unemployment, to 154,037, assuming a slow recovery and the greatest impact from unemployment.

“We can prevent these deaths by taking meaningful and comprehensive action,” it said. “More Americans could lose their lives to deaths of despair, deaths due to drug, alcohol, and suicide, if we do not do something immediately. Deaths of despair have been on the rise for the last decade, and in the context of COVID-19, deaths of despair should be seen as the epidemic within the pandemic.”

The federal government must fully support and invest in a plan to improve mental-health care, said Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer at the Well Being Trust. “If we work to put in place healthy community conditions, good health-care coverage, and inclusive policies, we can improve mental health and well-being,” he added.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly warned that efforts to stem the rapid spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, are spiraling the economy into another Great Recession; the impact has sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.60% ricocheting wildly in recent months.

The debate over the ramifications of a months-long shutdown of the economy has been both emotional and sobering. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the leading experts in the U.S. on infectious diseases, has pleaded with people to wear masks, wash their hands, socially distance, and avoid crowded places.

Others see it as a zero-sum game of the economy’s survival vs. the public-health emergency highlights, as well, the chasm between left and right on the American political spectrum. The left generally believes that strong social structures beget a stronger economy for all. The right traditionally follows the idea that a strong economic system begets strong social structures for all.

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