How to help those helping us during this crisis

We’re all being advised to limit social contact, and decrease our time in public places, in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. For some of us, this advice is impossible to follow because they are the people who care, protect and support society on a daily basis. So, how can we help the helpers?

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

With current advice around COVID-19 focusing heavily upon limiting non-essential contact – and isolation where needed – it would be very easy to bed down at home and focus on our own immediate needs and worries. However, there’s a huge team of people whose work has become busier and more crucial than ever – and they need our help and support.

We can all do our part to ‘help the helpers’ wherever we are – whether that’s considering how you use the NHS, or checking in with your local food bank. We all have a part to play in supporting the people that are working so hard to support us.

Healthcare staff

With the announcement that 300,000 beds are being made available in the UK for treating people who contract COVID-19, the coming weeks are set to be the busiest time for the NHS in our living history.

The pressure of working in healthcare in these times is immense, and people with long-term illnesses and chronic conditions still require medical support and supplies. We all need to do our utmost to decrease the burden on these services, wherever we live – and respect the impact it has on the lives of medical practitioners and support staff.

Rachel Patzer, a US-based director at the Center for Health Services Research, tweeted: “My spouse is a physician in the emergency dept, and is actively treating coronavirus patients. We just made the difficult decision for him to isolate, and move to our garage for the foreseeable future, as he continues to treat patients.

“We have a three-week-old newborn and two young kids and just can’t risk it. It pains me to wonder how many weeks will go by and he won’t get to hold our new baby or see our older kids.”

This is just one example of the sacrifice that healthcare workers are making in our communities.

How you can help

We can all play our role in supporting healthcare workers every day by acting on the most recent advice; the more we all play a role to slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, the less sudden and unmanageable pressures we will put on finite resources and our fellow humans.

Around the world, people are doing their best to show gratitude to healthcare staff. In the US, Headspaceis offering all professionals who work in public health settings free access to Headspace Plus in 2020 and, in some countries, people are breaking into spontaneous applause in the streets to thank those caring for them.

If you know someone working in healthcare text them today, tell them they’re doing a great job and that you appreciate them.

Mental health practitioners

As uncertainty around illness and contamination impact people with disorders, including OCD, searches around health anxiety rise, with more people are calling upon mental health support and the services of counsellors and therapists. Pam Custers, a practitioner, explains the impact COVID-19 has had to date, on her practice. “Coronavirus has impacted all of our clients. Every single one has raised the issue as a concern, or in passing. Many clients have spoken about how it may change their families, livelihoods or their health.

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“The truth is that coronavirus doesn’t just impact us physically as a virus – it has a huge psychological impact and, as a group of counsellors and therapists, we have to be the keel holding the ship steady in the storm.”

The responsibility of holding space for others, is a sentiment reflected by Sarah Rolfe, a self-employed counsellor who shares that she is treading the line of staying healthy herself, while continuing much-needed work with clients.

How you can help

It’s important not to withdraw from any mental health support you are having, or might need, at this time. If you’re already working with a mental health practitioner or service, speak with them and plan how you can keep in contact in the coming months.

If you’re looking for private counselling support, consider online therapy. There are over 10,000 counsellors who offer online services on Counselling Directory and, by finding someone who is local to you, you can move from online to face-to-face, should you want to when social distancing measures have eased. Using a local therapist also means that you are contributing to the local economy and small business owners, which is more important now than ever.

If online is not your thing, there will be therapists who will continue to offer in-person sessions with safety and hygiene measures put in place to keep everyone safe. Start a conversation and come up with an approach that’s right for you.

If you’re not in a financial position to engage a private counsellor there are many other options and charities who offer advice and support. Please know that you are not alone, and support is available.

School staff

Teachers have been working while the news around COVID-19 has evolved, and in high contact environments with many others. As well as teaching the curriculum, teachers have been working hard to maintain the hygienic practises needed, and managing student anxieties, as well as ensuring they are remaining happy and healthy themselves.

How you can help

This will differ from school to school, and there will be advice from headteachers, so keep tuned into this. Emailing to ask your school if there are specific needs, like soap, you can support with is a great and kind thing to do, as well as remembering to thank teaching staff and be aware that they too will have concerns about the virus and the implications for them.

Food banks

The current pandemic is not only impacting our health, but is also having a financial impact; it is specifically affecting people who freelance, are self-employed, on zero-hour contracts or are running small businesses. Charities like The Trussell Trust run food banks, and help if people need food or emergency supplies when finances become an issue – providing supplies for a minimum of three days.

How you can help

They can only do this if donations continue to come in, and while food is available – meaning that we all have to think seriously about not stockpiling, buying only what we need and, if we have the resources, to buy extra for our local food bank.

So, as well as shopping for only what you need, consider donating to your local food bank. If you can’t donate food, but can donate time, you can learn more about volunteering opportunities.

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