From the Pen of the President: April 2020
NASW-Illinois Chapter President Grisel Rodríguez-Morales, MSW, LCSW
Stop reading! Yes, that’s not a misprint. I’d like to promote a moment of relaxation. Let us try to center ourselves by briefly closing our eyes, allow our body to fully rest on whatever surface we’re sitting right now, and then taking a few deep and relaxing diaphragmatic breathes. Maybe even think of that place that makes us smile or feel at ease, either because we’ve visited or plan to go there at some point. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth….
We’re having a hard time taking a breather these days. As we try to perhaps homeschool children, take online classes, care for a family member, help those affected by COVID-19, or do all of these at once, we may be putting ourselves at the bottom of our To-Do lists. Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout prevalent in the helping professions. It can happen when we try to meet many demands at once while relinquishing the activities that would help us revitalize, like exercising, healthy eating, meditation, praying, or spending quality time with family and friends. Dealing with other’s traumas can be traumatizing. So, it’s okay to pause your reading to instead spend some time focusing on your emotional wellbeing by following the instructions in the previous paragraph (if you haven’t already). You deserve it. So, go ahead! You can always resume reading.
As in at least 25 states, 66 counties, 14 cities, and one US territory, in Illinois we’ve been urged to stay home to minimize the spread of COVID-19. In a very short time, we’ve had to rethink how we’re offering social work services and education to ensure social distancing. It’s an unprecedented time, and we’re competently attending to populations that are at higher risks of contracting the virus, individuals facing unemployment, domestic violence, social isolation, or other pressing issues.
During this global pandemic, social workers have been responding to an incredible amount of challenges. Social workers continue to ensure that individuals and families have access to health and human services, coordinate supports across systems and care transitions, work in interprofessional teams, advocate for policies and practices that can increase optimal health, and lead interventions and research that reduce health disparities. Our field fully understands the interdependent relationship among health and other systems, such as education and employment. Although recently approved legislations to expand telehealth services, economic stimulus bills, and relief packages to provide aid to individuals, families, and communities are all steps in the right direction, our job is not done. We need to continue advocating for policies that ensure everybody’s wellbeing. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, we must continue to provide emotional support, advocacy, and aid to those in greatest needs. We must find creative ways to engage people throughout this crisis.
The discussion about how supportive social ties directly contribute to emotional wellbeing is not new to us. Social workers are also aware of the negative impact that social isolation has on the health of individuals and communities. Continuous outreach to ensure that social distancing doesn’t turn into social isolation or lack of needed resources is extremely important. We’ve seen images of caregivers visiting their loved ones in a nursing home through a glass window. This is encouraging. We must find ways to reduce social isolation by reaching out to those most likely to be lonely. Turn that quick phone call about an appointment or a community referral into a friendly check-in that allows you to also ask if the person is feeling isolated from everyone or when was the last time they talked to someone other than a professional. This outreach is important since we can jumpstart the process of getting them engaged with neighbors, peers, and community programs.
It’s also important that we support each other. Taking the time to connect with our colleagues and see how they’re doing; not just checking on the unsurmountable tasks we have at hand. Our chapter continues to advocate on your behalf and to foster our workforce of over 6,000 NASW-Illinois Chapter members and over 20,000 licensed social workers in our state so that we can continue serving individuals, families, and communities during these stressful times.
Again, remember throughout this time to B-R-E-A-T-H-E.
Other COVID-19 News and Resources
National NASW COVID-19 Resources: https://www.socialworkers.org/Practice/Infectious-Diseases/Coronavirus
NASW-IL News page: https://www.naswil.org/blog
NASW Illinois MyNASW Community (NASW Members only): http://mynasw.socialworkers.org/naswil