I had been volunteering at hospitals as a counselor for admitted patients for many years. I saw the value in doing so when I was only in my second year in college, and we were tasked to offer our free counseling services at the university hospital on weekends. That was the only time I realized how much people needed emotional or mental help, but they could not always get that. Because of that, even when I graduated and got all my licenses and clinics, I kept on volunteering at least an hour of my time every day before seeing my paying clients. I would often extend my free services to the patients’ families since I knew that they must be dealing with emotional turmoil as they watch their loved ones suffer at the hospital.
When the COVID-19 pandemic happened, I naturally had to stop doing that. A few nurses at the university hospital that I grew close with over the years told me that some of the regular patients were sad due to my absence. I was also sad, of course, but there was nothing I could do at the time. I kept on thinking about how I could provide counseling without putting myself at risk of contracting coronavirus. Then, one day, I thought of online group counseling.
Innovating With My Helping Hand
Since I had contacts at the hospital, I asked them to talk to some of the COVID-19 and ask them if they wanted to join a group counseling session during their stay or after getting discharged. Many people answered positively, so I began allocating two hours of my day to talk to them via Skype. The topics were never set in stone, considering my clients had different worries every day. Sometimes, we would chat about how the virus altered their lives; other times, I would help them realize that there’s a way out of their situation.
The thing that bothered me the most was the reaction of my friends who were not in the mental health industry. While my colleagues and the medical staff at the hospital were commending me for my contribution to society, my friends were calling me the modern martyr. “Why are you even doing something that you cannot make money from? You are just wasting your time,” they often said.
I could tell that the reason behind it was that I always declined to meet my friends since I always had an online group counseling session to facilitate after my actual working hours. However, even without that, I would still say no. Gathering at such a crucial time seemed to defeat the purpose of social distancing and lockdowns, after all. Somehow, they could not understand that, no matter how much I tried to explain it to them. They eventually moved on to complaining about my social services getting in the way of my social life.
In case you are also wondering why COVID-19 patients need counseling, allow me to spell it out for you.
They Tend to Experience Discrimination
COVID-19 patients are not far from getting discriminated against. I have already given my friends’ reactions as an example of that above. On other occasions, some of my clients have been called names or blamed for contracting coronavirus.
Instead of making the patients feel better, though, such harsh words only feed their anxiety. That results in a longer recovery time for them, given that they need to nurse their health and their broken heart.
People Assume That They Are Okay After Testing Negative
People are quick to assume that someone is okay as soon as they test possible. However, the reality is that they may still feel weak after weeks of being ill.
The key idea here is that you should never jump to a conclusion regarding a COVID-19 patient. They may seem fine on the outside, but they may still be reeling from everything that has happened to them. And more often than not, that’s when they need your support the most.
Having COVID-19 Can Be Traumatizing
Yes, testing positive for COVID-19 can be traumatizing for many reasons. For one, the swab test is quite painful. Then, you need to stay in an isolated room for weeks, not just days. And if you get the severe symptoms, you may actually feel closer to death than ever.
Even when the ordeal is over, you may develop anxiety and paranoia afterward, considering you may keep on worrying about catching the same virus again. Hence, when you need someone to teach you some coping mechanisms during anxiety or panic attacks, it’s the time when you need someone to teach you some coping mechanisms.
Life will undoubtedly get better after you overcome COVID-19. Still, it will not hurt to get in touch with a counselor as you try to process everything and return to society.