COVID and Society: Challenges Before a Social Work Professionals


Narendra Kumar Singh

We have faced a global health crisis very recently, in the form of COVID -19. This pandemic has been associated with killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives. As the time has itself revealed, COVID pandemic is much more than a health crisis, for, it is a human, economic, psychological and social crisis. The COVID19 is attacking societies at their core. Over the past year or so we all have seen that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and has caused devastating effect on the economic and social front in terms of poverty, border closures, trade restrictions, confinement measures etc. The situation has become worse for those countries which are already having existing humanitarian crises or emergencies and are also exposed to the effects of COVID-19. Therefore, responding swiftly to the pandemic, while ensuring that humanitarian and recovery assistance reaches those most in need is critical. This pandemic has taught us that now are the time for global solidarity and support, especially with the mo st vulnerable in our societies, particularly in the emerging and developing world. Only together can we overcome the intertwined health and social and economic impacts of the pandemic and prevent its escalation into a protracted humanitarian catastrophe with the potential loss of already achieved development gains. International forums including the UN asserted that, we must recognize this opportunity to build back better. We are committed to pooling our expertise and experience to support countries in their crisis response measures and efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to develop longterm sustainable strategies to address the challenges facing the health sectors among others. Priority should be given to tackling rural poverty and mental health issue, in particular through more and better jobs in the rural economy, extending social protection to all, facilitating safe migration pathways and promoting the formalization of the informal economy.
Social & Psychological Impact

The COVID-19 outbreak has affected all segments of the population and is particularly detrimental to members of those social groups which are in the most vulnerable situations such as, people living in poverty situations, older persons, persons with disabilities, youth, and indigenous peoples. During this pandemic we all have witnessed that, it’s challenging for many of us to manage our health and mental well-being when faced with so many unknowns. Apart from creating situations of mass panic, fear, stress & sleep problems people have experienced major disturbances of psychological well-being as an outcome of COVID pandemic that has created a crisis like situation. This pandemic has led a majority of people especially with lower and lower middle strata of society and especially in the unorganized sector with loss of jobs and pay cuts. With demanding online way of working, deprivation of social gathering with closed ones or within the community, deprivation of social rituals and ceremonies etc. people have lost or in a way had been deprived of their stress buffer system. It has certainly led to impaired socio-occupational functioning which has further affected their psychological well-being and quality of life.

Challenges and Roles

Social work professionals sit in a unique position during a public health crisis, one that’s often overlo oked. From offering emotional and mental health support to educating the larger community, their role entails navigating what is often a complex and evolving situation (during a pandemic):

In Navigation:  During an evolving crisis situation like COVID-19 pandemic, where, safety confinement related guidelines are changing daily, one of the social work professionals’ major responsibilities is to help their clients find the appropriate resources and support they need. This can be a challenge. But, by staying up-to-date about government resources, they can be a source for clarity and personalized guidance and can navigate between the society and government agencies. In this way, health social work professionals can reduce stress, fear, sleep problems and anxiety for clients and help them find the resources they need.
In Guiding Self-Care: One of the most challengi ng aspec ts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the uncertainty. Those who are anxious or impacted by the pandemic might need outside support in prioritizing self-care, which is where health social wor k professionals play another essential role. They can serve as a neutral sounding board, working with clients to develop coping strategies to manage anxiety & depression and provide non-sensationalized information. Whether it’s the disruption to their normal routine, the stress of having children home from school, or being worried about loved ones in isolation in quarantined cities or elder care facilities, this stress can severely impact mental wellbeing. Therefore health social work professionals can play a significant role in guiding self-care of the people during such pandemic like situation.
As a Community Response: Health social work professionals are often at the forefront of crisis intervention, offering social structure and support through crisis resolution. During such pandemic, they are not only supposed to respond to the health crisis but also supposed to offer skills and resources that will restore individuals’ normal patterns of functioning. The priority for health social work professionals is to support the community as such, in COVID like crisis situations. This can be achieved by developing a community-based intervention model. Now-a-days with the use of technology, one can develop and utilize Telehealth / Tele mental health interventions to provide Health / Mental health education for online screening and for emotional support to the community as such.

It is important to incorporate social work professionals at all levels of health care response framework. Social work professionals are needed to navigate the area of global pandemic and assist with individual, family, group and community having grief, fear, stress, anxiety and Trauma etc. Social work professionals are also needed to better understand where systems are breaking down during pandemic l ike situations, wha t community resources are becoming available in a rapidly changing environment during pandemics, and how policies can be changed or modified to improve public health and safety. Moreover, I believe, that, during post COVID-19 phase (post pandemic phase), social work professionals can also support health care systems to better prepare for future public health crises by ensuring that people have easy access to basic needs as well as mental and physical health care.

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