Here We Are, A Year & A Half Since The Pandemic Started …
Everyone Seems So Different Now!
Apart from the obvious impacts from COVID-19 itself, the shutdowns and constant fear have had a significant and lasting impact on us all. But for scam victims, it seems it is especially traumatic.
Some of our team has been helping scam victims for 30 years, but the recent changes in behavior and lack of openness in scam victims is especially worrying.
The pandemic has forced so many people to work and expose themselves to the coronavirus, while others have benefited from working from home. But in both cases, there was a sense of isolation – of separateness.
At the start of the pandemic, some people enjoyed the more relaxed lockdown measures (depending on which country they were in), while others felt safer through strict self-isolation. It became a survival imperative as people we knew were dying.
Still, overall, the mental effects of lockdown did begin to show: people reported feeling more agitated, more stressed, more restless, and more sleepless.
According to Medical News Today: Studies confirmed this. A small but worrying survey from March 2020 revealed increased alcohol and cannabis use among people in the United States. They likely turned to these substances in an attempt to relieve their pandemic-induced anxiety and depression.
The same survey also found that a whopping 38% of people were feeling tired or lacked energy, 36% were having sleep disturbances, and 25% were feeling down, depressed, or hopeless.
Now imagine that if “normal” people were feeling that, then the effects on traumatized scam victims has to be even worse!
And We Have Seen All Of This, Especially This Year!
During the deepest part of the shutdown, people started to isolate themselves psychologically too. Everything was inhibited and restrained. People were talking to fewer and fewer people every day. Until many could go days without talking to anyone. Did this become the new norm? Has this become a habit now?
What we are seeing in victims is still the initial panic and desperation after the scam, but as they begin to work through their emotional trauma new behaviors are exhibiting themselves. We are seeing that victims are far more reluctant to seek help, far less willing to talk to professionals, far more anxious and depressed, and far more isolated than we had seen in previous years.
Those surveys also showed that: Around 24% of respondents also reported having difficulty concentrating, 43% felt nervous, anxious, or on edge, 36% reported not being able to stop worrying, and 35% said that they were finding it hard to relax.
In the United Kingdom, other studies with larger population samples found similar results. Of the participants, 25% said that their anxiety and depression during lockdown got significantly worse, and 37.5% met clinical criteria for generalized anxiety, depression, or health anxiety at the time (April 2020).
Where Are We Now?
According to Medical News Today: Scientists are using huge datasets to track the impact that pandemic control measures have had on people’s mental health. Although the full picture has yet to become clear, we can see its early contours — and the overall first impression is looking rather bad.
Scientists are starting to see a global “surge” in depression. According to a December 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 42% of people in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depression that month. This was a huge increase from the 11% they recorded in 2019.
Another study that looked at residents in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada found a 14% increase in anxiety as a result of the pandemic.
Again, that is for normal people, now when we look at scam victims and apply the same template we see a completely different landscape and it may be just the tip of the iceberg!
The trend that seems to be most disturbing is that victims seem to be staying isolated after their scam to an ever greater extent. It isn’t just the normal guilt and shame holding them back. They are not getting help, are not sharing their experience with others, and even when they seek help are staying substantially silent and withdrawn. We used to see large numbers of realist victims seeking help and taking full advantage of it, however, now some may be seeking help but do not use or exploit that help hardly at all.
Normally scam victims fell into three main categories – and this may still be true – but a majority now simply appear so withdrawn and silent that it is difficult to tell. We have also seen that normal approaches for victims’ assistance needed to be changed to support these new traumatized victims, with an increased need for professional trauma counseling or therapy.
We have always advised victims to seek counseling – unlike amateurs that simply advocate time and they will be able to shake it off – but now counseling seems to be an imperative for so many because it is the only context they feel safe participating in.
Researchers have expressed worry that some of these adverse mental health effects may linger after we fully come out of the pandemic. “I don’t think this is going to go back to baseline anytime soon,” clinical psychologist Luana Marques — from Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA — told Nature magazine.
What Are We To Learn From This?
It appears that in addition to the trauma of the scam, victims were and are experiencing a compounded trauma from the pandemic and that this is affecting their ability to recover from their scam profoundly or even to participate in their own recovery effectively.
Everywhere we look, we see people acting more distant, less connected, more withdrawn. None of this is good for scam victims. On top of the scam, victims have to recover from the constant experience of simply living through the pandemic. The last time this happened was 100 years ago, we saw the emergence of an almost manic period following the Spanish Flu pandemic called the “roaring 20s” with excessive behavior in everything people did. Are we in for such a knee-jerk reaction this time?
As we wait and watch how best we can help scam victims, it is frustrating to see so many victims effectively shut down and disconnected from help even though they are trying to stay involved in their recovery.
The number of new victims seems to be growing a lot, based upon numbers being discussed in government and what we are seeking – we are being told that new victims of scams increased 2,000% in 2020 over 2019. But we see fewer of them (as a percentage) taking advantage of the professional help that is available.
Regardless, we continue to offer our services free to all that ask. We only hope that more victims realize the compound nature of these events and can find the energy to use the help offered.