With the current lockdown, most of our key departmental events were either canceled or postponed. One of these was our BUC Health Ministries conference which should have taken place on Sunday 26 April. Captioned ‘Surviving and Thriving through Traumatic Life Events’, the days event was set to focus on Bereavement Care and Trauma Support. It was to feature a roll out of the BUC Bereavement Care Befriender training and highlight the SEC Trauma Unit initiated by Cornerstone Counselling Service.
The words ‘trauma’ and ‘bereavement’ has become closely associated with the current pandemic, as we face the loss of loved ones and even concerns about our own mortality.
Growing concerns are being voiced by health professionals and scientists who are urging Government agencies to take actions to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on our mental health.
"While emotional responses of stress and fear in the face of a pandemic caused by a novel virus for which little is known are normal and expected,excessive and protracted feelings of stress and powerlessness may have significant impact on individuals’ mental health…"*1
Launched in April, the BUC ‘Restoration’ Convalescence project, was birthed out of the need to support individuals recovering from the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Along with the physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs that the convalescence projects aim to meet, mental health is a key area of concern. As such, the BUC Health Ministries director invited Cllr Rabi Martins’ a Mental Health Champion and his team to provide counselling for those recovering from COVID-19 in the Watford area. They are currently working in partnership with the BUC Convalescence Project.
Realising the need to extend mental health support further afield, the SEC Cornerstone Counselling Service (CCS) has been invited to partner with the BUC, to augment the aspect of mental wellbeing support as people convalesce.
We are grateful to Thembie Mapingire Co-ordinator for CCS, and her team, whose counselling service is making a positive impact during these challenging times. Sharon Platt-McDonald caught up with Thembie for an interview to share how CCS will assist with counselling support for the BUC ‘Restoration’ Convalescence project.
Sharon: Thembie, perhaps a good place to start, is for you to share with us what you and your team do.
Thembie: Cornerstone Counselling Service (CCS) is sponsored by the South England conference. We have 19 locations across the SEC and a team of 20 counsellors. Our team has counsellors specialised in trauma, (with a specialist trauma referral unit), addictions, couple counselling, children and young people, bereavement and family therapy to name a few. We use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and other models of counselling. We have been operating as a professional service for 24 years. CCS have now switched to online and telephone counselling during this current lockdown.
We have counsellors and listeners who speak a variety of languages such as: Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, French, German and Bulgarian and many African languages.
Sharon: What are your thoughts on being invited to partner with the BUC Health Ministries ‘Restoration’ Convalescence project?
Thembie: We are excited to partner with the BUC, on this much needed initiative to cater for those who experience challenges with their recovery from COVID-19. We are also grateful to the BUC Health Ministries department who funded us to equip our trauma unit with the necessary clinical equipment and supportive resources.
With counselling currently being done online, we are able to carter for our members across the BUC members, and also individuals in the community.
Sharon: How is CCS currently working to assist individuals as they recover from COVID-19?
Thembie: We are drawing on the strengths of the initiatives that we commenced earlier this year. Since early March, we launched the listening line to assist people who are distressed, overwhelmed , lonely, bereaved and the fear of coronavirus becoming a pandemic.
Now with the enormous loss of normality that COVID-19 has brought to society in general, this has increased people’s levels of anxiety. We have enlisted a team of 50 trained volunteer counsellors and listeners who have started working daily from 8 am-12 midnight. We offer free telephone counselling and online chat( http://www.ccscounselling.org.uk/).
Adequate background checks have been made before our ‘listening’ volunteers can commence and they have been trained in the CCS procedures and professional guidelines. We currently have 10 more who are still waiting to be DBS checked and trained. This support will continue throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Additionally, free online counselling is being offered to NHS staff and other key workers.
Sharon: What are some of the general issues that has emerged for individuals recovering from COVID-19?
Thembie: Those recovering from COVID-19 often experience anxiety, fear and loneliness from the isolation during the current lockdown. What they need, is the assurance that someone is there to listen to them and to connect with them. This is what CCS is a there to do; to provide this connection, to enable them to reach out for support.
Sharon: So on a given day, what would your CCS team have to deal with?
Thembie: To date our CCS team has been offering emotional support and counselling daily from 8am-12midnight. The issues we have face are:
- We are getting a lot of calls from front line workers. We are dealing with their fear of catching COVID -19, increased anxiety, burnout and emotional drain of dealing with more than 15 deaths per shift. The grief and loss and the pain of dealing with the death of colleagues, also, the paralysing fear that comes with “what if I am next?”
- Anxiety and fear of loss of jobs for those on Furlough, those experiencing financial loss, the loss of everyday routine, the list goes on.
- For those recovering from COVID-19 or other illness, is the shock of returning to work to find some colleagues have died. The pain, fear and devastation is immense.
- The rise of domestic abuse due to the lockdown is also a great concern.
Sharon: Clearly your team have a lot deal with on a daily basis. What outcomes would you like to see as CCS engages with the BUC Convalescence Project?
Thembie: Perhaps one of the key issues is to help people gain some level of confidence even whilst facing the uncertainties. People are now getting concerned about getting out post lockdown, the uncertainty and discomfort of going back to a ‘new normal’ life, using public transport, sending children back to school and much more.
With all this uncertainty it is easy to fall into negative thought patterns that are anxiety inducing. Maintaining a positive outlook and taking one day at a time, trying not to control the uncontrollable, which overwhelms.
With a positive mindset, people can tell themselves that: This is not permanent, it will pass. This brings hope and security. We suggest coping mechanisms such as journaling their supressed emotions as an outlet, having positive affirmations, also the use of scripture for Christians is excellent. I like Philippians 4:13 (AMP) which says: “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfil His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency;)] …”
I find that being grateful and reflecting on emotional growth helps in developing resilience. Also, taking time to make future plans can help take the mind away from the current anxieties and give the brain a drop of Dopamine. Other suggestions could include spending time discussing family values and looking forward to learning something new.
Sharon: Thembie, it has been so enlightening speaking with you and getting the scope of the support you are able to provide us all during this time of lockdown and specifically, those recovering from the Coronavirus. How can your team be contacted?
Thembie - We can be contacted on:
Telephone: 0207 723 8050,
website : www.ccscounselling.org.uk and Chat with us online or make an online referral.
Sharon: Thank you Thembie, we look forward to your continued working with us as you offer essential support for our BUC ‘Restoration’ Convalescence project.