Unlike anything we have seen before, the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging the way we cope. This seismic impact on everyday life can lead to a sense of powerlessness, frustration, fear and anxiety.
Counselling, psychosocial and financial supports will be needed to restore hope and take back a sense of control for many. This includes addressing the needs of the precariously housed or isolated, single parents, trauma survivors, those facing chronic diseases, mental health conditions and/or substance use issues.
We can’t forget our selfless health care workers and first responders, nor can we ignore the new needs that will arise during these stressful times.
Prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable
It’s imperative to provide groceries and supplies to those with immediate needs. Rent subsidies, affordable food delivery for seniors, interest-free student loans, financial relief and support of social service agencies are key tools.
However, compulsory physical distancing complicates delivery of services during this time of increased demand. As social services shift to tele-services or virtual services, those without access to the internet face additional barriers as they try to cope.
Taking care of community from campus
Social Work faculty, staff and students at Trent University Durham GTA have all stepped up to provide relevant support and educational resources needed as a result of the pandemic.
From working with children with learning disabilities to providing harm reduction support and end-of-life palliative care, Trent Social Work students have learned to support many vulnerable populations through coursework and field experience. Currently, students are delivering pandemic-related services, such as telephone counselling and compiling essential resources, within their previous community placements.
Students and faculty have joined a ‘caremongering’ campaign to provide supplies to those who are quarantined or otherwise vulnerable. We are currently developing a community educational resource to respond to questions about life in the pandemic.
Additionally, Trent University has provided residence housing and donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to the medical community.
Taking care of our students
At Trent Durham, we’re also providing social work supports to our campus community. We are ensuring that students can finish their semester, particularly those who care for family members or face logistical challenges. Student Services also assists those who remain in residence, including international students who cannot return home.
We are supporting student mental health and well-being through virtual programming and Trent Durham social media channels. The newly launched online campaign #TrentInProgress is encouraging students to learn and demonstrate new skills while video appointments provide peer support and isolation relief. The Trent Durham Student Association (TDSA) has also made $10,000 of financial aid available to students.
Taking care of all
People are strong and resilient. Parents, caregivers and community leaders can influence how we cope with our current stresses. Balanced community and kindness are the most important currencies today.
This pandemic is a powerful reminder that we should all be our brothers’ keeper.
Dr. Marina Morgenshtern is an assistant professor of Social Work at Trent University Durham GTA and in Peterborough. With contribution from Dr. Dalon Taylor, lecturer of Social Work at Trent University Durham GTA. This article originally appeared in Metroland.