A psychologist has advised that employees take care of the practical dimensions of the COVID-19 and the fear of job losses by contacting their employers or unions for advice and by seeking legal advice should it become necessary.
The pandemic has brought about lots of uncertainties which is causing fear and affecting job security as companies and business establishments come to terms with the effects of the pandemic on business, profits and investments, bringing about some downsizing and layoffs.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce face the immediate danger of losing their sources of livelihood due to the continued sharp decline in working hours globally due to the COVID-19 outbreak .
According to Ms Vivian N. A. Aubyn, losing “your job is not easy because jobs are more than a means of getting an income. Jobs define who we are and gives us a sense of purpose and meaning in life therefore losing a job can have many negative consequences.”
She was responding to questions from ghanabusinessnews.com on some of the psychological effects of the COVID-19 on people and how they can cope during this time.
Ms Aubyn is among the psychologists that provided face-to-face psycho-social support for travelers who went through mandatory quarantine.
She also serves on the Board of The PsyKForum, a non-governmental organisation, which has been providing free psychological support via telephone.
She explained that employees could also handle job losses by seeking the support of a psychologist or a life coach.
“If you work in the informal sector you could contact any association that you belong to or see the market queen, station manager and boss and discuss what may be available.”
“But most importantly recognize that losing a job is a challenge but it is one that can be surmounted.”
Adding that losing a job should be seen as an opportunity to grow and explore other capabilities although this is difficult to see immediately.
Ms Aubyn noted that in order to understand some of the psychological effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, people must first of all understand what a pandemic is all about.
“I believe that we should start by first understanding what a pandemic is; in the simplest term a pandemic is a disease that affects a large number of people and spreads over multiple countries or continents. Usually this spread is over a relatively short period of time as it happened in this case. In the case of COVID-19 it is not just that it was spreading, but also because it is new, very contagious and with no current known cure.”
“These characteristics of pandemics makes the general population very afraid and anxious about potentially catching the disease and this fear is often followed by anxiety-related behaviours such as sleep disturbance, poor concentration and some erratic behaviours.”
“What we should also note is that individuals with mental illness may become particularly vulnerable to the effects of widespread panic and threat,” she added.
She noted that the main source of fear during this pandemic is “the fear of you or your loved one becoming infected with the coronavirus, and also the fear of dying should you get it.”
“To overcome this fear try to get information from reliable sources with scientific basis such as the Ghana Health Service, also believe in the information you get from such sources.”
“If you begin to doubt the fact that for example over 80 per cent of the people who get the disease survive and instead believe that you will die once you become infected, then your anxiety levels will be high and you might not be able to observe preventive measures correctly and that is a risk,” she explained.
“Also, limit your consumption of media information on COVID-19, especially sensational information.
According to her, information from social media sources, tend to emphasise the negative, adding that “if you feel very stressed do not hesitate to contact a psychologist.”
Ms Aubyn said at the moment there is a tele-psychological support ongoing and the PsyKforum for example has been providing free psychological support to those who have called the lines that have been put out.
She also touched on the recent lockdown and its psychological effects on individuals saying people do not like their freedoms to be curtailed in any way.
“When it is prolonged, people begin to develop a wide range of symptoms of psychological stress and disorder, including low mood, anxiety, anger, irritability, and emotional exhaustion. Such distress may lead to non-compliance or occasional breaking of lockdown regulations especially when there is a degree of confusion about guidelines on what people are allowed to do or not to do.”
“Outside of our individual psychology, broader social factors come into play. In times of uncertainty we look to others to guide our own behaviour as they set our social norms,” she added.
Ms Aubyn said individuals and families can handle the psychological effects of the pandemic and the lockdown by “building our individual and collective resilience.”
“And we can begin to do this when we see the measures being taken to halt the pandemic as our collective responsibility, that is, we are observing hygienic practices and other outlined interventions as our individual contribution to securing the public good.”
“Yes, it is difficult in the initial stages adjusting to our new normal of being home all the time instead of the adrenalin rush we get from waking up early with the anticipation of reaching a deal or making some difference at our various workplaces or just the survival need of getting our daily bread on the street, in the market or the various places we go to engage in our everyday activities.”
She asked that the public sees this downtime as a time to connect with families, read books, take on new hobbies or do some social good.
“In short we should reframe our thinking from my freedom has been limited, I am not able to do the work I love, I am losing precious time in reaching set goals and targets, to I am helping to get the pandemic under control by staying at home and therefore limiting the spread, if I and my family and others all do this we can go back to work faster and better”.
By Eunice Menka
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