Recent discussions with social workers from six different disciplines around the country centered around the lasting effects this dreadful pandemic has had on their constituents. Everyone agreed that the novel coronavirus and associated diseases have caused unprecedented - disruption.
DISRUPTION: A BREAK OR INTERRUPTION IN THE NORMAL COURSE OR CONTINUATION OF SOME ACTIVITY, PROCESS, ETC. (Webster's Collegiate)
Social Worker #1 - "No matter how dysfunctional the lives of the most vulnerable may sometimes appear to us, their lives are their normal, and human animals always feel safe with the familiar. Remove them from familiar surroundings, relationships, work and recreation and they become anxious and deeply fearful. Constant fear causes a stress level that leads to anger and violent responses that evolve into serious and often debilitating psychic disorders. This pandemic disruption has challenged social workers with a dramatic increase in intimate partner violence, child abuse, and substance abuse."
Social Worker #2 - "Due to sweeping stay-at-home orders across the United States, many victims and survivors of domestic violence, now forced to be isolated with their abusers, run the risk of new or escalating violence. We are desperately trying to keep in touch with constituents who have histories of intimate partner violence but during COVID even communication was hampered. Domestic-violence hotlines prepared for an increase in demand for services as states enforced these mandates, but many organizations experienced the opposite. In some regions, the number of calls dropped by more than 50%. Experts in the field knew that rates of IPV had not decreased, but rather that victims were unable to safely connect with services. As the pandemic is subsiding, we are hearing from the vulnerable a little more frequently, and what we're hearing is not good."
Social Worker #3 - "Closures of schools and childcare facilities have added to the stress at home. Virtual learning often requires the involvement and supervision of parents and guardians. The added stress of balancing work, childcare, and children’s education has led to a rise in child abuse. Mandated reporters, such as teachers, childcare providers, and clinicians, also have fewer interactions with children and families and fewer opportunities to assess, recognize, and report signs of abuse than they did before the pandemic."
Social Worker #1 - "In our field we are always dealing with substance abuse, but the pandemic disruption of normal life has really frightened people, and they are using drugs and alcohol to help them cope. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. Overdoses have also spiked since the onset of the pandemic. The Recovery Village conducted their own survey of 1,000 adults (ages 18 and older) about their use of drugs and alcohol in the past month. Here's the percent of respondents who used the following substances to help them cope with their disrupted lives:
- Alcohol (88%)
- Marijuana (37%)
- Prescription opioids (15%)
- Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax (11%)
- Prescription stimulants, such as Adderall (10%)
- Cocaine (9%)
- Additionally, many respondents displayed higher rates of drug and alcohol use. Of the respondents:55% reported an increase in past-month alcohol consumption, with 18% reporting a significant increase. 36% reported an increase in illicit drug use."
The social workers all agreed that they are now dealing with the intense and relentless anxiety caused by the disruption of normal life patterns interrupted by the COVID pandemic. Getting back in touch with their constituents is their first priority.
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