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Frontline workers and clients are looking out for each other during health crisis

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“There is a lot of mutual respect here”
Frontline workers and clients are looking out for each other during health crisis

Michele, Morganne and Iris, three of Good Shepherd’s longtime community mental health workers, have been witnessing mutual compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clients at our supportive housing programs are just as concerned about the well-being of our frontline workers as we are for them.

A special relationship has developed with our frontline workers and the people they support. The tenants are concerned about staff and often check in with them as much as staff checks in with the tenants.

“We’ve noticed that the tenants are really worried about us,” says Morganne. “There is a lot of mutual respect here and with the virus they are constantly checking on us, asking if we are okay.”

“Having everyone go through this at the same time is having an effect on the tenants. They seem to be opening up more,” adds Michele. “Instead of us asking them ‘how are you feeling today?’ the conversation is going both ways. It’s helping them open up because they can see the pandemic is a collective struggle. We’re all going through this together.”

The tenants are unable to attend programming and have been struggling with isolation. Previously, they were encouraged to attend programming and not isolate themselves, but now they are being asked to do the opposite. It’s an interesting paradox for the workers, who cumulatively have 22 years of employment at Good Shepherd.

“The people we serve are already isolated,” notes Iris. “We know that they will become very unwell as restrictions from the virus continue to see the isolation increase. We are doing our best to catch it and provide extra support to the clients who need it at this time.”

The mental health workers must be creative to help their clients live in a world that is constantly changing. Even mundane tasks like grocery shopping have their own challenges.

“The new reality of grocery shopping is difficult to manage when you aren’t struggling with mental health issues,” says Morganne. “Some tenants are finding it very overwhelming. The rules are changing all the time and we’re noticing people are really stressed coming out of that environment. So we’re doing our best to help.”

Like all frontline workers, Iris shows the empathy that is crucial, especially during the global health crisis.

“The clients are very vulnerable already; they struggle with mental illness,” she says. “It’s hard enough for someone who doesn’t face that to go to a grocery store, wait in line, feel worried about being exposed to the virus. For someone who is already struggling, it can be too much.”

For the community mental health workers, self care is as important as caring for their clients. They find that daily physical activity is helping them cope with personal stress. But for now they make do within the parameters of the pandemic guidelines.

“We can’t wait until this is over so we can complete some of the outings we had planned,” says Morganne. “It’s fun for the staff to experience these places with the clients.”

“I’m excited for the virus to end so we can get back to serving our clients in the regular way,” says Iris. “We are doing a great job now working with the restrictions and getting creative to support the clients, but I can’t wait to go back to providing the supports we know we are great at.”

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