United Academy

Holistic Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 29, 2020
Last updated July 15, 2021
KMC Lalitpur

Dr. Narendra Singh Thagunna, Saroj Giree, and Sarita Sapkota - Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province. The virus spread across the globe at an alarming rate affecting millions of people. No sooner it was declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11th March 2020 with an appeal for every country to take immediate action for detection, treatment, and reduction of the transmission. WHO has reported 28,78,196 confirmed cases and 1,98, 668 deaths globally as of April 27th, 2020, four months after the first known case.

Currently, a third of the world’s population is living under lockdown imposed by the respective governments. Earlier self-quarantine was practiced in different countries during the time of Ebola virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak but such measures have been implemented in our country Nepal for the first time. 

Be it in the economic, social, political, or health sectors, the negative impacts of COVID-19 are rippling through every facet of the society. The lack of preparedness to prevent and treat this virus, and the possible prospect of getting infected, can lead to the onset of psychological symptoms such as irritation, anger, stress, excessive fear of getting infected (self or family members), insomnia or hypersomnia, changes in eating habits, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, etc. Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations but frontline workers, old-age population, children and adolescents, people with long-term or chronic medical conditions, substance users are more psychologically vulnerable to COVID-19.

'Prevention is better than cure'. There are few ways to maintain psychological well-being during the lockdown.

What if the backronym of PANDEMIC is like this:

  • P: Plenty of sleep
  • A: Avoid watching news 24/7 (hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting) and always stick to credible sources
  • N: Nourish yourself with a well-balanced diet
  • D: Don’t use substance (alcohol, drugs)
  • E: Exercise regularly and Engage yourself in different activities
  • M: Meditate 
  • I: Indulge in Positive thinking
  • C: Connect with loved ones and share your concerns and feelings with them 

Role of Psychologists, Counselors, and Social Workers during the Pandemic:

1. We can ask all individuals are regarded with affection and care. We bolster you to get imaginative and discover new and novel approaches to make an association in your networks (letter composing, email composing, video talking, and staple conveyance). We urge you to hear yourself out and make the wisest decision for you.

2. After the outbreak of COVID-19, Wuhan Association of Social Workers created a community-based intervention model consisting of an interdisciplinary team of social workers, community workers, medical workers, and volunteers. Social workers assessed the needs of each household using mobile apps, coordinated volunteer teams to help purchase necessities at local grocery stores and pharmacies, offering home delivery to minimize human contact. This example set by the Wuhan Association of Social workers clarifies that social workers can play a key role in helping people live a normal life in this chaos created by COVID-19. 

3. We help individuals through telepsychology, refer to the usage of psychological services delivered via video conferencing. This medium might be a very attractive as well as an accessible option for patients as well as therapists. The expanding role of technology in the provision of psychological services and the continuous development of new technologies that may be useful in the practice of psychology present unique opportunities, considerations, and challenges to practice. With the advancement of technology and the increased number of Mental health practitioners, Social workers and psychologists using technology in their practices.

4. Remote Psychological First Aid (PFA) is a strategy for helping individuals in trouble so they feel quiet and upheld to adapt better to their difficulties. It is a method for helping somebody to deal with their circumstance and settle on educated choices. The premise of mental emergency treatment is thinking about the individual in trouble and demonstrating compassion. It includes focusing on responses, undivided attention, and, if necessary, commonsense help, for example, critical thinking, help to get to essential needs, or alluding to advance choices for help. PFA helps normalize worry and other emotions, PFA also promotes healthy coping and provides feelings of safety, calming, and hope.

5. Shanghai Social Workers Association launched the “Epidemic Fighting – Shanghai Social Workers’ Service Group” and Guangzhou Social Workers Association launched “Guangzhou Social Workers’ Cotton Sponge Guard Hotline” which provided community residents with advisory services on COVID-19 prevention knowledge and epidemic prevention and control policies. Hence, they set forward an example that Social workers can play an important role in delivering the needed relevant information.

6. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Chinese Association of Social Workers (CASW) has been working closely with member organizations to launch online “Mental Health Assistance Campaign Against New Coronary Pneumonia” to provide online psychological counseling to the public that are impacted. The virus will likely exacerbate existing mental health disorders and contribute to the onset of new stress-related disorders. Hence, social workers can work along with psychologists, counselors to provide online counseling and support services such as psychological assistance, emotional support, and medical assistance.

7. In any crisis, people with chronic illness, unaccompanied minors, elderly people who live alone, economically backward, and disadvantaged groups are the most vulnerable ones. Social workers and mental health professionals (psychologists, counselors) can work in coordination with the concerned body of the state to:

  • identify and intermediate the needs of the vulnerable groups; 
  • prioritize and sort feasible epidemic prevention and control information and use online services for communicating the information and provide psychological counseling and emotional counseling for people in panic and pressure.

8. Every community has its own cultural practices, values, and traditions. With abundant time due to lockdown, social workers, and mental health professionals can advocate for teaching those traditions to newer generations. Teaching the cultural practices comes with advantages:

  • Newer generation get to learn the value and importance of cultural practices and can pass it on to future generations;
  • Teaching and learning process keeps them busy which helps in stress reduction.

9. In the present context of COVID-19, there is no known particular medicine for cure to date and social distancing is the only known way to keep ourselves safe. During the time of great uncertainties like pandemics, relying on the rumors that many have been cured, people of any religion can engage themselves in all kinds of superstitious behaviors in the hope of keeping themselves or their loved ones safe. Mental health professionals, social workers can work together in busting all these rumors and providing accurate information. 

As social work and psychology are interdisciplinary subjects, so the professionals from these fields can work together in coordination with experts from other subjects as well to:

  • provide immediate interventions or referrals to peoples with COVID-19 symptoms or other physical and mental health concerns;
  • limit the spread of sensational or inaccurate information and disseminating accurate information from trusted sources; 
  • keep people psychologically strong during the pandemic through online counseling;
  • mediate the need of communities to the concerned body of the state and inform people at grass root level about the planning and implemented policies of the state; 
  • better understand where systems are breaking down, and how policies can be changed or modified to improve public health and safety;
  • conduct needed survey and research; 
  • help individuals, groups, or communities to rebuild social connections, enhance or restore their capacity for proper social functioning, and adapt to life after the outbreak.
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