Response to a crisis, whether the crisis may be resolved quickly or drawn out over a long period, benefits greatly from gender inclusion and appreciative resilience. For which reason these actions are vital to successfully ensuring the psychosocial well-being of persons dealing with crises.
In “Capacitating Oneself for the New Normal”, Prof. Finaflor Taylan and Dr. Emely Dicolen discussed institutional and personal strategies in dealing with a crisis like COVID-19, from the prolonged quarantine period to the new normal. The online lecture was organized by the Social Work Program of the UP Open University (UPOU) Faculty of Management and Development Studies (FMDS) as part of the University’s Let’s Talk it Over series and was streamed on May 27 in UPOU Networks.
Taylan, a registered social worker who is a faculty member of the FMDS Social Work Program, talked about “Gender Perspective in Psychosocial Support and Well-Being”. She said the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified vulnerabilities and placed multiple burdens on women, especially the abused who may be “locked in” with their abusers. Unplanned and at-risk pregnancies may also occur. There have also been reports of power struggles in quarantine management, such as instances of “sex for quarantine pass”.
Taylan emphasized the fact that as individual, we should know the importance of our rights, recognize or condition and report violations of our human rights, be aware of existing and new rules and laws, and do volunteer work. She also mentioned “proactive protection programs” that may be undertaken by households and communities.
Using a code word to report abuse when one is afraid because the perpetrator is nearby, and having an exit plan to escape abuse are actions that may be taken, among others. In the delivery of gender-inclusive well-being programs, functioning structures for violence against women and children, gender and development, and reproductive health must not be derailed by the pandemic, because these programs address issues that did not go away when COVID-19 reached the country.
Taylan also mentioned the need to review referral pathways as the crisis has given way to new protocols. The remote delivery of psychological first aid (PFA), for example, is a critical form of service. It would help, she added, if previous reports of abuse were used to identify target areas for random, but regular, roving by security personnel for community safety.
In giving psychosocial support to survivors of gender-related violence, PFA or the first interaction in a case is crucial. She underscored the necessity of using gender-fair, non-judgmental language. Building rapport by showing support, being empathetic, and empowering courage are keys to helping survivors sort through fears and anxieties. “They need support, not scrutiny,” Taylan said. She explained that help-seeking is a turning point for them and begins the healing process, so it is imperative that insensitive language is avoided because the survivors should not be “re-victimized”.
Taylan closed her talk by reiterating that gender rights are human rights, which means these rights ensure the well-being of all, regardless of gender.
Dicolen, the program chair of the UPOU Diploma in and Master of Social Work program, as well as being an associate professor at the UP Manila National Teacher Training Center for the Health Professions, discussed “Appreciative Resilience in Times of Crisis”, which was more of a personal technique to cope with problems.
Appreciative resilience (AR), Dicolen explained, stemmed from appreciative inquiry (AI), which is “the search for what is life-giving and possible within the people and the world around us”. It is purposely seeking what one wants to accelerate and develop, realizing that “what we appreciate, appreciates.”She said that it shifts the focus from the problem to what has been going well.
In the current situation, Dicolen suggested finding one’s personal answers to the following questions: “What was the BEST thing that ever happened to you during the [enhanced community quarantine]? How have you used your strengths to help yourself and others during the COVID-19 times? What is the one small action you can take today to help make tomorrow better for you and others?”
AR was conceptualized by Joan McArthur-Blair and Jeanie Cockell in their 2018 book, Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry: A Leadership Journey through Hope, Despair, and Forgiveness. In it, the authors say AR “assists people in developing their own understanding and personal call to resilience by using AI principles and practices.”
There are three elements of AR: despair, forgiveness, and hope, Dicolen said. Despair is where one is doubtful because of uncertainty. Forgiveness makes moving forward possible by resolving to give up “resentment, anger, and fear and step toward accepting things as they are”. Hope is the belief that the “future will open possibilities” and “looks at ‘what is’ and ‘what might be’“.
Dicolen shared her own experience of despair, forgiveness, and hope to illustrate how AR has helped her. Her moment of despair came when her daughter, Kelly, a graduate student in Germany, was found to be COVID-19 positive on March 19 after returning from a study trip to Belgium. Forgiveness came when Dicolen let go of blame and anger—at the organizers of the study trip, at her daughter, at the whole situation. Hope, she revealed, sprung from her family members supporting each other and realizing that relationships within their family could still get better and stronger, even when they thought they were already as close as family could get.
She clarified how people have different capacities to cope. While there is no timetable for the process of healing, she said, “It’s OK not to be OK, but it shouldn’t be forever.
Dicolen ended her talk by encouraging everyone to take a “self compassion break” during trying times by telling oneself, “May I be kind to myself at this moment. May I accept this moment exactly as it is. May I accept myself exactly as I am in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
The archived video of the web streamed lecture and discussion may be viewed at networks.upou.edu.ph.
Get tips from Taylan on maintaining psychosocial well-being during the current pandemic here.