By Shauntee L. Walters
Registered Counselling Psychologist
Life Intervention Support Services
Many mental health issues have come to the fore as a result of the trauma caused by COVID-19. Instances of depression, anxiety, and worsening or developing physical health concerns are being navigated by the population, and collectively, we are reaching out for help.
This week, we take a moment to examine what we can do to help, even though we ourselves are negatively impacted.
Acknowledge that mental health issues exist
This may seem like a strange starting point. However, as a country, we still struggle with paying lip service to mental health and mental health issues. Many times we try to avoid even thinking about mental health being a concern because our socialisation has taught us that we do not talk about it. We are in the habit of glossing over anything regarding mental health, hiding it in the back of the paper, placing it last on agendas, allotting minimal resources, and basically pretending that all is well.
In order for us to truly help ourselves and others at this time, we need to accept that we are multi-dimensional beings and that mental health impacts and is impacted by the other aspects of our health.
Next, we need to realise that we are all susceptible to having any mental health issue and it does not mean that we have done anything wrong or are less than any other person. Individually and collectively, we need to seek help and extend resources with the same vigor and urgency with which we seek to resolve our physical health concerns.
Remember the impact varies from person to person
There will be persons who are more and less psychologically impacted by COVID than we are. As such, we need to consider these individual differences when interacting and treating others. The capacity to work, focus, produce, etc. will vary. Managers should be careful when comparing productivity now to pre-COVID times and results. Instead of taking punitive measures and increasing stress and anxiety levels; efforts should be made to provide opportunities to release and process the stress. Empathy is a must in all relationships, whether professional or personal.
It is integral that we care for ourselves and do those things which promote physical and mental well-being. Exercise; eating consistent, healthy meals; taking breaks to regroup and renew, and participating in hobbies and activities which bring pleasure. We should encourage others to focus on self-care. When we are full, we have more to share with others and can be of greater help.
Encourage connections across media
Our current reality creates distance from loved ones. Focus should be placed on using the various media and platforms to connect. Share your knowledge with the less tech-savvy and motivate them to stay connected to family and friends. Also, use the media to check in on neighbors, colleagues, etc. That one call can make the difference between someone feeling hopeless or loved.
Support the frontline:
All of us know at least one essential worker who has sacrificed for us this past year. Their service provision requires that they daily risk their life, health, and safety and unlike us, many are not afforded the opportunity to stop and take a break or even process their experiences.
Let us support them through being respectful and patient in our interactions with them; assisting where possible with their family or home life; offering to do a chore or send a delivery and above all else, checking in on them. Show them that their work and sacrifice is not unnoticed. Show them that they are valued.
COVID has been disempowering for us all. Moving from a place where we were self-determined to one where we are controlled and directed can be traumatising. In our interactions and conversations, let us acknowledge the right of others to make their own decisions and make them without pressure or judgment.
Whether it be about taking the vaccine or breaking the curfew, we each need to feel responsible for the decision and be accepting of any and all consequences.
Above all else, let us underpin our words and our actions with empathy and the decision to treat others only as we would desire for ourselves.
This article appears in the March 15 edition of COVID Weekly. Read the full publication here.