COVID-19 compassion calls: Volunteers checking in and checking up
2020 hasn't been the best of years so far and among those most vulnerable to the anxiety and isolation of a pandemic lockdown are those with mental health challenges.
Already 1 in 5 of us are dealing with a mental health issue and that ratio seems to be narrowing. Being in close quarters with others and involuntarily restricted from accessing many essential supports, there's been an exponential increase in the volume of crisis calls. Recently, in medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry, an international group of suicide experts stated flatly, "The pandemic will cause distress and leave many people vulnerable to mental health problems and suicidal behavior."
Enter the NAMI Clackamas Compassion Committee.
Beginning in April, more than a dozen volunteers took to the phones and have been reaching out to scores of local residents who have interacted in some way with NAMI Clackamas over the years. Checking in and checking up.
"How are you doing?" "Is there anything we can do?" "Would you like us to call you back again?" Those are the staple questions on every call.
"I'd been wanting to do something productive and useful during this pandemic," said Susan C., one of the Compassion Committee volunteers who are asking that we use an initial instead of their last name in this article. "It seems that most of us are doing fine but some of us are struggling. Making the phone calls, I felt that I might get the one who is struggling. I have lived experience with some of what they are struggling with and I know what it feels like to need to talk and be heard."
Another volunteer Gail B. observed, "It's incredibly rewarding to connect with those in our NAMI community. Being reminded that one is part of a caring and compassionate community is always a welcome respite, especially when given an opportunity to chat with a team member who's offering their time and assistance as needed."
Besides connecting with those who may be struggling, it also afforded an opportunity to let people know that there were many support groups, classes and counselors available online, often free and without the barriers of geography.
"Our members are so appreciative of the information and resources I'm able to provide," Gail said. And just as important, adds Susan, "I don't have to have all the answers but I can be a source of information/direction or just an ear for someone who needs to talk."
"And there it is…" according to Gail "…what our members appreciate the most is precisely what I enjoy the most… genuine connection. It is truly an uplifting and joyful experience."
Once again, compassion with a health dose of empathy and someone to share it with. That's what the Compassion Committee offers and, especially during the long wait, that's almost as good as a vaccine!
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