OHIO —  Millions of Americans who are used to working have recently found themselves in the tough place of being unemployed and unable to take care of their basic needs on their own. 

For many, the idea of not being able to do so has caused varying levels of shame and embarrassment as they now seek help from others.

Not being able to get unemployment, stimulus checks, and even basic necessities has even left a number of people feeling helpless as they reach out through Facebook groups and other mediums for support.

But clinical psychologists say the fear and anxiety, coupled with uncertainty, is normal.

  • COVID-19 is pushing people to find new strategies of coping that may be uncomfortable
  • Family, peers and work environments often shape our feelings and responses to asking for and receiving help
  • COVID-19 may help to reshape the meaning of pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps

On any given day you can find lines of cars filled with people seeking assistance, along with hundreds of social media posts noting the need for help too. For many, it's the first time they've had to ask for help.

Ohio State University Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Travis Westbrook works with patients in the area of mental health. He's also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pyschiatry and Behavioral Health at OSU. He said, "I think part of it how we got here is just some of those kind of individualistic ideas of working hard,doing it yourself and that no one else can really do it but you."

For people who have always had a job and relied on their own grit and determination to get through things, he said they're now having to find new coping strategies, which may be uncomfortable. 

Although there are many reasons why people struggle with asking for help, research shows that family cultures and messages, along with society help to shape our feelings.

"People might be raised in settings where if they fail, it is their fault and that's something to be ashamed of," said Westbrook. And so for many, "it's almost that people interpret needing assistance as weakness or some sort of deficit."

But he added that it's important to understand that many of the feelings people are experiencing are normal, especially with the current circumstances and uncertainty. 

And while the country may see more people beginning to rely on community supports for a while, it may not be permanent.

"I don't know that we're going to see national permanent changes. We could. But what I think is more likely is individuals' own attitudes might change,which might be more powerful at the end of the day," said Westbrook.

He hopes that as people are in this nationwide class of learning, they will become more flexible, while seeking out resources and understanding that sometimes you can't do it on your own.

Westbrook believes it's possible that with COVID-19, the idea of pulling oneself up by their own bootstraps may begin to take on new meaning as people reach out for help. That meaning may come in the form of continuously calling the unemployment line, searching out details on a stimulus check or searching for a new job. And that's with all of it being done with the same determination if not more than before COVID-19.