Is this for me?
Are you performing a critical function during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Is your work essential to the survival of people affected by COVID-19?
Or to keep systems and services functioning for the benefit of everyone?
If yes, then this information is for you!
as a health professional, e.g. a doctor, nurse, counselor or a social worker or case manager
as a first responder, e.g. a law enforcement officer, ambulance driver or firefighter
in food supply or preparation, in a pharmacy or in funeral work, transportation, government, utilities or sanitation
in supporting loved ones or friends, or vulnerable
people in your community as a supervisor or manager supporting staff or volunteers.
Why is this information important?
Most people will feel stressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Supporting the emotional well-being of others during this challenging time is important.1,2,3 You can make a difference to the well-being of people through how you interact and communicate during the COVID-19 response, even if the interaction is only brief.
The information in this guide can be used to support anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic: people who have COVID-19, have lost someone to COVID-19, are caring for someone with COVID-19, have recovered from COVID-19 or are affected by restrictions.
There is no response without you
You are an essential part of the COVID-19 response.
It can feel rewarding to know that you are making a difference.
Many people will feel stressed and exhausted while working in the COVID-19 response. This is natural given the difficult demands. Everyone
reacts differently to stress. You may experience some of the following:
• physical symptoms: headaches, difficulty sleeping and eating
• behavioural symptoms: low motivation to work, increased use of alcohol or drugs, disengaging from religious/spiritual practices
• emotional symptoms: fear, sadness, anger.
If stress is consistently stopping you from doing your daily activities (e.g. going to work) then seek professional support.
Make sure that people in vulnerable or marginalized situations are not overlooked
Anyone can be in a vulnerable or marginalized situation at different points in their lives. However, some people, based on the barriers, bias and stigma associated with specific aspects of their identity, will face these situations more often and with more severity. People in vulnerable situations will likely need special attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who may be vulnerable or marginalized include:
•people at risk of, or currently experiencing, violence or discrimination (e.g. people experiencing gender-based violence and/or intimate partner violence, which that may escalate during movement restrictions during the pandemic, LGBTQI people, minorities, migrants, refugees, people with disabilities)
•older adults, especially those who are forgetful (e.g. those with dementia)
•pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions who need regular access to services
•people with disabilities, including mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities
•children, adolescents and their caregivers
•those in crowded living conditions (e.g. prisoners, people in detention, refugees in camps and informal settlements, older adults in long-term care institutions, people in psychiatric hospitals, inpatient units or other institutions) or those who are homeless
•people living alone who have difficulties leaving their home
•people who may have difficulty accessing services (e.g. migrants).
Supporting those living in care homes
Those working in care homes (e.g. nursing homes and other institutions) may face specific challenges. For example, older people are at higher risk of COVID-19 infection and are likely to have a more serious course of illness. They may experience heightened anxiety, fear, and sadness – particularly as isolation measures may prevent them from seeing loved ones. Extraordinary circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic can trigger violations of human rights and dignity, including neglect, in institutions. Workers may feel guilty or powerless to change the situation, and they may require additional information and training to ensure that residents’ rights and dignity are preserved.
Women and girls affected by COVID-19
Like other emergencies, COVID-19 is exposing women and girls to higher levels of vulnerability, such as an increase in the duties of girls and young women in caring for elderly and ill family members or for siblings who are out of school. They may be at higher risk of violence in the home and of being cut off from essential protection services and social networks. Some women and girls may experience reduced access to health, sexual and reproductive services, as well as maternal, newborn and child health services. In both the short and long terms, they may have greater economic difficulties, which could further increase their risks of exploitation, abuse and engaging in high-risk work. It is important that care is taken to meet the specific needs of women and girls in all aspects of the pandemic response – including in workplaces, communities, and camps.
Supporting those who are grieving
It is especially difficult to mourn the loss of loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic. People may be unable to use their normal ways of coping with stress, such as seeking support from family members, or to continue their normal daily routines. They may feel that their loss is not significant because so many people are dying from COVID-19, and they may be unable to perform normal mourning rituals.
Those working during the COVID-19 pandemic may witness more death and grief than normal. They may find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the losses and grief they witness, with the added difficulty of coping with their own losses.
Supporting those living in refugee camps and informal refugee and migrant settings
Specific challenges for people living in settings of this kind include not being able to access basic needs such as food, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and adequate health care; not being able to follow rules on physical distancing due to crowded conditions; and experiencing human rights abuses from those enforcing movement restrictions. Those who remain working in refugee camps when other agencies might have left may have an increased and overwhelming workload. Also, refugees and others who are displaced have already suffered the loss of home,community, loved ones or livelihoods, and may have fewer internal and external resources to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting people with disabilities
People with disabilities may experience a number of barriers in accessing relevant and inclusive information about COVID-19, its spread and means of staying protected. People living in institutions will be affected by the issues highlighted above for those living in care homes, and they may be at risk of abuse and/or neglect. In environments that do not adequately address inclusion, people with disabilities generally have less access to care and services, including food, health care, basic services and information. Therefore, people with disabilities may suffer more severe consequences during this crisis.