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Communication and Relationships Building in Crisis Situations

DEFINITION OF COMMUNICATION:

  • Is a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants do not only exchange (encode-decode) information, news, ideas and feelings but also create and share meanings
  • In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places
  • As an information age, messages are sent, received and processed numbers of messages every day

WHAT IS EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Effective Communication:

  • Is more than just exchanging information; it’s about understanding the emotion behind the information
  • We are able to express ourselves, verbally and non-verbally, in ways that are appropriate to our cultures and our situations.
  • This means being able to express opinions and desires, but also needs and fears.
  • It means being able to ask for advice and help in a time of need

BENEFITS OF EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION:

Effective Communication can:

  • Improve relationships at home, work, and in social situations as it deepens your connections to others
  • Improve teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving
  • Enable you to communicate even negative  or difficult messages without creating conflict destroying trust
  • Combine a set of skills including non-verbal communication, attentive listening, the ability to manage stress in the moment, and the capacity to recognize and understand your own emotions  and those of the person you are communicating with
  • As it is a learned skill, it is more effective when it is spontaneous rather than formulated. For example, a speech that is read does not have the same impact as a speech that is delivered
  • It takes time and effort to develop these skills and become effective communicator
  • The more effort and practice you put in, the more instinctive and spontaneous your communication skills will become.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS:

There are four major effective communication skills. They are:

  1. Listening
  2. Non-verbal communication
  3. Managing stress
  4. Emotional awareness

Listening Skill

It is the most important aspect of effective communication. To become a successful listener, it means you don’t just understand the words or the information being communicated, but also understand how the speaker feels about what they are communicating.

Effective listening can:

  • Make the speaker feel heard and understood. This can help build a stronger, deeper connection between you.
  • Create an environment where everyone feels safe to express ideas, opinions, and feelings, or plan and problem solve in creative ways
  • Save time by helping clarify information, avoid conflicts and misunderstanding
  • Relieve negative emotions.

Quick stress relief for effective communication

When stress strikes, you can’t always temper it by taking time out to mediate or go for a run, especially if you’re in the middle of a meeting with your boss or an argument with your spouse, for example.  By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, though, you can safely face any strong emotions you’re experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.  When you know how to maintain a relaxed, energized state of awareness- even when something upsetting happens- you can remain emotionally available and engaged.

Non-verbal communication

When we communicate things that we care about, we do so mainly using nonverbal signals. Wordless communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing. The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.

Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work.

  • You can enhance effective communication by using open body language arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to.
  • You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message- patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message.

Managing Stress

In small groups, stress can help you perform under pressure.  However, when stress becomes constant and overwhelming, it can hamper effective communication by disrupting your capacity to think clearly, creatively, and act appropriately. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to misread other people, thus sending confusing messages. When you find yourself in that situation:

  • Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much more about something than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment in the future of the relationship.
  • Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Take a quick break and move away from the situation. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.

Emotional Awareness

  • Emotions play an important role in the way we communicate at home and work.
  • It’s the way you feel, more than the way you think, that motivates you to communicate or to make decisions.
  • The way you react to emotions, such as nonverbal cues affects both how you understand other people and how they understand you.

If you are out of touch with your feelings, and don’t understand how you feel or why you feel that way, you’ll have a hard time communicating your feelings and needs to others.

Emotional awareness provides you the tools needed for understanding both yourself and other people, and the real messages they are communicating to you. Although knowing your own feelings may seem simple, many people ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. But your ability to communicate depends on being connected to these feelings. If you’re afraid of strong emotions or if you insists on communicating only on a rational level, it will impair your ability to fully understand others, creatively problem solve, resolve conflicts, or build an affectionate connection with someone.

Interpersonal Relationship

Interpersonal relationships are those relationships you have with persons that have the same interests and ideals as you have.  It is very important for care workers/caregivers to have these skills so that their clients do not feel like a burden

A person with good interpersonal skills is one who:

  • get along with others in the work place
  • is polite in talking with other people
  • is pleasant
  • work in a team
  • a good listener and
  • has a pleasant speaking intonation

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP SKILLS 

  • Interpersonal Skills refer to your emotional intelligence of solving problems, managing conflict with people in work place or community as well as your ability to build effective relationship
  • It is anything working with other people
  • Help us to relate in positive ways with the people we interact with. This may mean being able to make and keep friendly relationship, which can be of great importance to our mental and social well-being.
  • It may also mean keeping good relations with family members which are important sources of social supports
  • It may also mean being able to end relationship constructive

ARE PEOPLE BORN WITH INTERPERSONAL SKILLS?

No, since they are not born with the understanding that there are other people. However, people are born with the capacity to learn interpersonal skills through observation and emulation which they must do when they are quite young. Children growing without other people around them, cannot be born with this because they are too old.

VARIOUS TYPES OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS

When two individuals feel comfortable in each other’s company and decide to be with each other, they enter into a relationship.

Individuals who are compatible with each other enter into an interpersonal relationship. People must get well for a strong and healthy/positive relationship (positive/healthy)

FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is an unconditional interpersonal relationship where individuals enter into any of their own sweet will and choice.

Friendship is a relationship where there are no formalities and individuals enjoy each other’s presence.  Friendship can be between:

  • Man and a woman
  • Man and man
  • Woman and woman

Must have in friendship:

  • Transparency is the most essential factor for a stable friendship. Do not hide things from your friends. Be honest to them.
  • Guide them whenever required. Never give them any wrong suggestion or advice.
  • Feelings like ego, jealousy, hatred, anger do not exist in friendship.
  • The entire relationship of friendship revolves around trust and give and take. No relationship can be one sided and same with friendship. Try to do as much as you can for your friends.

LOVE

An interpersonal relationship characterized by passion, intimacy, trust and respect is called love.

Individuals in a romantic relationship are deeply attached to each other and share a special bond.

Must have in a Romantic Relationship:

  • Two partners must trust each other in this relationship.
  • A sense of respect and mutual admiration is essential

Partners must reciprocate each other’s feeling for the charm to stay in the relationship for a longer period of time.

Case – 1

Marriage happens when two individuals in love decide to take their relationship to the next level.

Marriage is a kind of formalized relationship where two individuals after knowing each other well decide to enter the wedlock and stay together life- long through thick and thin.

PLATONIC RELATIONSHIP

A relationship between two individuals without any feelings or sexual desire for each other is called a platonic relationship.

In such a relationship might end in romantic relationship with both the partners developing mutual love and falling for each other.

FAMILY RELATIONSHIP

Individuals related by blood or marriage are said to form a family.

PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP (WORK RELATIONSHIP)

Individuals working together for the same organization are said to share a professional relationship.

Individuals sharing a professional relationship are called colleagues.  Colleagues may or may not like each other.

CHARACTERISTICS OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

There are different characteristics of interpersonal relationships. These characteristics range from brief to long lasting.  They are based on love, friendship, family, kinship, work related, marriage, mutual agreements, neighbourhoods, places of worship and social groups.

WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

Interpersonal relationship helps to maintain your ability to- successfully communicate, interact and socialise in public.  If you- always live alone, you’d get more and more…… (MORE)

  • Answered
  • In Relationships

Assertiveness – Showing Empathy in Crisis Situations

DEFINITION:

  • Is the effective expression of oneself and at the same time standing up for your view point whilst you also respect the rights and beliefs of others
  • It is a way of behaving forcefully without ignoring or trampling  on the rights of other people
  • It is a means that you can confidently but peacefully demonstrate your right or point of view
  • The opposite of assertiveness is passiveness  

HOW DOES ONE BECOME ASSERTIVE?

One is assertive for the following key points:

1. Assertive as an individual:

  1. He/she possesses self-confident
  2. Builds confidence and stands for his/her opinion/decision

2. Assertive in a group:

  1. You put your points across to the others in a confident and non-aggressive manner
  2. You recognize other people’s point of view
  3. Respecting the other group’s ideas and opinions
  4. Being tolerance of the differences between your group and the other group
  5. Putting your points across convincingly

3. Assertive on a one-to-one relationship

  1. Being firm but polite
  2. You acknowledge and are confident in what you stand for

Benefits of Assertiveness

  • It helps to boost one’s self-esteem (explain the meaning of self-esteem)
  • You earn respect for others
  • It helps to control stress  and anger and improve coping skills especially with too many responsibilities because you have a hard time saying no
  • It is a core communication skills
  • It gives the best chance of successfully delivering your message
  • You stand up for your right
  • You respect yourself and others
  • You are confident but not pushy

Outcomes of Assertiveness:

  1. It is self-fulfilling
  2. It makes you escape from trouble
  3. It prevents teenage and unwanted pregnancies
  4. Its prevents infections Ebola disease

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ASSERTIVENESS, PASSIVENESS AND AGGRESSIVENESS

1. Assertive Person:

  1. States his/her opinions, while still being respectful to others
  2. Speaks openly
  3. Uses the conversational tone
  4. Makes good eye contact
  5. Shows expressions that match the message
  6. Relaxes and adopts an open posture and expressions
  7. Participates in groups
  8. Speaks to the point
  9. Values self-equal to others
  10. Tries to hurt no one including him/herself
  11. Usually reaches goals without alienating others
  12. I’m okay, you are okay

2. Passive Person:

  1. Doesn’t state their opinions at all
  2. Speaks softly
  3. Avoids looking at people
  4. Shows little or no expression
  5. Moves and withdraws sluggishly
  6. Isolates self from groups
  7. Agrees with others, despite feelings
  8. Values self-less than others
  9. In a group but dormant
  10. Hurts self to avoid hurting others
  11. Does not reach goals and may not know goals
  12. You’re okay , I’m not

 3. Aggressive Person:

  1. Attacks or ignore others’ opinions in favour of their own
  2. Interrupts and talks over others
  3. Speaks loudly
  4. Glares and stares at others
  5. Creates fear with expressions
  6. Stands rigidly, crosses arms, invades others’ personal space
  7. Controls groups
  8. Only considers own feelings, and/or demands of others
  9. Values self-more than others
  10. Hurts others to avoid being hurt
  11. Reaches goals but hurts others in the process
  12. I’m okay, you’re not

Empathy

DEFINITION:

  • is concern for other people
  • it is the ability to see the world as another person, to share  and understand another person’s feelings, needs, concerns and/or state emotional
  • the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s position
  • The ability to see the world through the eyes of those who are different from us. For example: concerns for orphans/survivors, for health workers in general, for their families who have lost loved ones through Ebola, marginalized children, out of school children, children whose parents are very poor, deprived with low self-esteem, war affected and refugee families, Ebola affected and abandoned children, etc.

CHARACTERISTICS:

  • It is an innate behavioral quality that can be developed
  • It can come naturally to most people
  • It possesses good power of imagination to see the world from the perspective of other people
  • It is a selfless act
  • It enables us to learn more about people
  • It is a desirable skill that is beneficial to ourselves, others and society
  • Phrases or statements such as: being in your shoes and soul mates are all examples of empathy
  • It is compared to spiritual or religious state of connection with other person or group of people
  • It is the most advanced of all communication skills

Being empathetic has two components:

  1. Effective communication (understanding is desired in any communication process)
  2. Strong imagination (good powers to empathize with others) 

DISTINCTION BETWEEN EMPATHY AND SYMPATHY

  • The different is that with sympathy, you feel pity or sorry for another person
  • While with empathy, you feel with others
  • When you empathize, you enjoy better relationship with others and greater being through life.

Life Skills

What is Life Skills?

The concept is not easy to define. Life Skills are terms that do not have one definition. However, some writers have defined Life Skills as:

  1. “The skills needed by an individual to operate effectively in society in an active and constructive way”
  2. “Life Skills are personal and social skills required for people to function confidently and competently with themselves, other people, and the wider community”.
  3. “Life Skills are abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands of everyday life”.

What does life skills in crisis situation important?

It helps individuals to:

  • Know their strengths and limitations
  • Pursue creative and critical  thinking
  • become empathetic and coexist amicably with others
  • be assertive and have the skills to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively
  • identify, cope and find solutions to difficult or challenging situations – even in crisis situations

Importance of Life Skills:

Life Skills can help young people to:

  • make positive healthy choices and avoid risky behavior even at moments of disasters/crisis events
  • make informed choices
  • resist peer pressure
  • form and develop mutual beneficial relationship

Benefits Associated with Life Skills Education include:

  • Acquisition of knowledge
  • Positive changes in behavior and attitude
  • Enhancement of STIs including HIV  prevention and  other related reproductive health issues
  • Enhancement of the prevention of mental health and psychosocial problems during crisis situations like the Freetown mudslide and flooding experience.

Types of Life Skills

Basic life skills includes, though not limited to the following:

  • Decision-making
  • problem solving
  • Assertiveness
  • Empathy (concern for others)
  • Creative thinking
  • Resisting peer pressure
  • Effective communication
  • Negotiating friendship
  • Interpersonal relationship
  • Goal setting
  • Coping with stress and emotions

What other Skills are confused with Life Skills

In most situations people get confused in understanding life skills from other skills like livelihood skills. It is good to be able to know the difference between these two skills.

Livelihood Skills

These are skills which prepare young people to obtain and keep satisfying job opportunities which include:

  1. Developing Curriculum Vitae skills
  2. Job-searching skills
  3. Interviewing skills
  4. Effective communication skills
  5. Entrepreneurial skills
  6. Marketable skills to enhance functionalism

Life Stills for Psycho social competence

Psycho social competence is a person’s ability to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life. It is the person’s ability to maintain a state of mental well being and to demonstrate this in adaptive and positive behavior while interacting with others, his/her culture and environment.

Psycho social competence has an important role to play in the promotion of health in its broadest sense; in terms of physical, mental and social well-being.  In particular, where health problems are related to behavior, and where the behavior is related to an inability to deal effectively with stresses and pressures in life, the enhancement of psycho social competence could make an important contribution.  This is especially important for health promotion at a time when behavior is more and more implicated as the source of health and social problems due to crisis events.

The most direct interventions for the promotion of psycho social competence are those which enhance the person’s coping resources, and personal and social competencies.  In school-based programs for children and adolescents, this can be done by the teaching of life skills in a supportive learning environment.

How life skills are related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or HIV prevention as a result of crisis events?

Life skills for PTSD prevention are the knowledge and skills that are transmitted to people that need to avoid potential mental health and psycho social problems and adhere to information giving to them by social, medical, mental health practitioners. If this information is put into practice, there is the likely of reducing stress and traumatic level leading to the prevention of mental health and psycho social (MHPS) problems.

Also, Life skills for prevention are the knowledge and skills needed to avoid HIV infection and maintain healthy life style. Life skills reduce the likelihood of HIV and other Sexually Transmission Infections (STIs), thus promoting people’s self-worth and identity.

In addition, Life skills provide the education to internet with others and strengthen their problem solving skills in adhering to health messages in relation crisis events.

Furthermore, we are frightened and confused because we are unsure what the future holds for us after a crisis situation.

A major example of Life Skills (Decision Making)

Decision-making is defined as:

  1. deciding about something especially for example, among a group of people, more so, the group of young people
  2. Selection of a course of action from among two or more possible alternatives in order to arrive at a solution for a problem

Why decision–making is difficult?

There are good reasons why it is difficult to make decision especially with/for adolescents to make up their mind. Adolescence are children between the ages of 10- 19. With adolescence, there is agony of decision-making because:

  1. There are conflicting relationship between making choices and preserving freedom as one cannot do the first (make decision) without reducing the second (preserving freedom),
  2. When you choose one course of action, a host of alternative courses become closed up.
  3. For a young person of an age when more freedom to grow is more important, the human reality is very hard to accept
  4. All decisions reduce more freedom than they create.

Good Decision-Making:

Good decision is one of the most powerful skills that children need to learn as they progress through childhood into adulthood. But it is not a skill that is developed really on its own as children grow up.

Parents and caregivers should teach children why popular culture and technology (social media) can cause them to make poor decision and guide them in learning how to make good decision.

Dealing with the effect of crisis events – Sleep Problems

What are sleep problems?

These are little or no regular sleeping issues due to factors (identified or not) that is hindering you from having your usual normal sleep. 

Kinds of sleeping problems:

There are different ways in which our regular sleeping problems can be affected . Some of them includes although they are not limited by any means to:

  • not getting to sleep easily
  • waking many times during the night
  • waking very early and not being able to get back to sleep again
  • poor quality of sleep
  • sleeping in the daytime
  • nightmares and bad dreams

Causes of sleep problems:

Things do not happen in isolation, there are always reasons for the things that happen to us. In the case of sleep problems, some of the causes could be as a result of:

  • stress
  • ill health
  • low mood
  • anxiety
  • worry
  • poor sleep pattern
  • caffeine – coffee/ tea / cola drinks
  • alcohol
  • nightmare

 Dealing with sleep problems:

In dealing with sleep problems we should first of all look at the circle of sleep which is; preparing to go to bed, being in bed and dealing with bad dreams and/ or nightmares.

Preparing to go to bed 

A lot of people just go to bed without being prepared, no wonder the challenge of sleep in crisis situations increases and becomes difficult to manage. There are specific things we need to avoid to enable us dealing with our preparing to go to bed. Most of them could be best identified with the help of a specialist but the most basic ones to avoid are:

Avoid…

  • drinking any drinks containing caffeine after lunchtime
  • drinking lots of fluids
  • exercising late in the evening
  • watching TV, computers or our phones (the light from these makes our brain think it’s daytime!)
  • doing something that takes a lot of concentration
  • thinking about your problems

It is mostly recommended that the following be done in readiness to go to sleep:

Always…

  • make your bedroom as quiet and comfortable as possible
  • try to wind yourself down for 1-2 hours before bed
  • wash before going to sleep
  • read some relaxing literature before bed time
  • listen to relaxing music
  • try to keep very relaxed before going to bed.
  • go to bed when you feel sleepy

Being in Bed

Whilst it is great to be well prepared before going to bed, it is equally important to also plan for a fruitful stay in bed. Here is little suggestion to consider while in bed.

Always:

  • try not to worry about not sleeping – you’ll only keep yourself more awake
  • remind yourself that you are still resting and will fall asleep when you are ready
  • try not to watch the clock – put it out of sight
  • gently focus on your body relaxing or your breathing to feel at peace

In cases when all of the above is being tried but not much is achieved, then try the 15 minutes rule. The 15 minutes rule states that if you are not asleep within 15 minutes GET OUT of bed go and sit somewhere else and do something quiet and relaxing. Only when you feel sleepy go back to bed and if you are not asleep again in 15 minutes GET OUT of bed again.

This is important because it will help the individual to train his/her mind to associate bed with sleep and not to being awake. We should also be careful not to sleep at the wrong time – especially when you realize that there is a newly developed unusual sleeping habits that tends to creep into already established patterns of sleeping – like sleeping during the day.

Managing our Sleep:

It is best to always decide on a time you would want to wake in the morning that seems reasonable to you. This time should be your sleep anchor which you must not change. To be able to do this effectively, you could set an alarm and get up at this time even if you have had no sleep at all. Avoid taking a nap during the day even though it will be difficult for a few days but stick at it! This process could be repeated until you start to fall asleep at a reasonable time in the evening

Dealing with Bad dreams/Nightmares

Bad dreams/nightmares are best described in the following ways:

  • These can be unpleasant mental pictures which are not necessarily dangerous
  • They might affect your sleep by waking you up or because you are frightened to go to sleep
  • If you are having problems or worries in your life you will be more prone to nightmares
  • Bad dreams are more common in people who have been through stressful experiences such as living in a camp as a result of crisis such as mudslide/flooding or working in communities affected by crisis.
  • They are also common in those who have been bereaved.

Dealing with patterns of Bad Dreams/Nightmares

Lots of people are of the opinion that these are either natural trends and cannot be managed. Others are of the view that these are either attack by evil intending to have us killed or wreck some harm on us or those connected with us. These are cultural beliefs which are subject to change. It is very possible to manage our bad dreams/nightmares. This could be best done by re-scripting/rewriting your dream life using the following approach:

  • In the daytime write down or go through in your mind the ‘script’ of the nightmare as it plays out in the bad dream
  • Find the point just before it turns bad
  • Re-write the script changing it into a happy ending

If it still persists go to the mental health unit at the nearest government hospital where you are living.

Dealing with the effect of crisis events – Anger

There are common problem behaviours that goes side by side with crisis situations as in the case of the recent flooding and mudslide disaster or working in a crisis affected community? These are: Anger (and) Drinking

Understanding what anger is?

Anger is:

  • a normal human emotion.
  • feeling annoyed, frustrated, irritated, or even very angry from time to time.
  • expressed by shouting, yelling, or swearing, but in extreme cases it can escalate into physical aggression towards objects (e.g. smashing things) or people (self or others).
  • sometimes could be a brooding, silent, or leads to withdrawal.

Things to watch out against:

  • Do I found myself getting really angry at people or situations?
  • When I got angry do I got really mad?
  • When I got angry do I stayed angry for a very long time?
  • When I got angry at someone do I really want to hit them?
  • Do my anger prevented me from getting along with people as well as I’d have liked?

Benefits and problems of Anger:

There is always a good and bad effect of problem behaviours – however, what most times could be considered as good effects are only temporal and does not have a lasting impact. Whilst anger would help the individual to unwind the tension within and at the same time makes them feel high, it damages the individual’s health, expensive to maintain, results to low feeling afterwards, affects quality of sleep as well as causes relationship problems.

The costs are very much in terms of effect than the benefits; So then preventing or dealing with it is very important – It is much more important to manage ones anger than unleash it.

If and when an individual manages his/her anger, he/she is able to facilitates better sleeping pattern, becomes more focused than distracted and conserves more energy than expels it.

Sources/Causes for Anger:

Anger comes mainly as a result of a feeling of boredom, low mood, feeling anxious, having bad memories, wanting to do the same as your friends or an habitual feelings that one may have at certain days or times of the week

Can someone be able to modify problem behaviours like Anger?
Problem behaviours especially issues of anger could be effectively modified. It mainly focuses on the causes of anger that the anger reaction itself. This could be done through the following steps/practices:

  • When you feel Boredom find something to do
  • When you feel your mood is low, find something else to do that is enjoyable
  • When you are not able to manage the above two suggestions find someone to talk to – So at best problem behaviour (specifically anger) can be modified but not managed?

There is the traffic light rule which helps to deal with anger in another way. It states that when you are really angry (which shows the red light) it means it is dangerous to go ahead, therefore you must stop right there as is the same rule for a car. Wait for a moment until you feel the orange light is on (which requires be ready to act). In this case the orange light requires the individual get ready to calm down, breathe out – blow the anger away. And take 2 deep breaths to wait for the green light which instructs you to either go away or distract yourself until you feel calmer.

What effect does anger has on an individual?

Anger affects an individual’s body, behaviour and thoughts and when it persists and is not controlled then it becomes a serious problem and would require someone to see a mental health worker for specialized support.

Where can these supports be found?

Every government hospital has a mental health worker – you can access a free of cost care for such talking sessions. It is better to seize such opportunities than to allow it to totally destroy your valued relationships.

PROVIDING PSYCHO-SOCIAL SUPPORT (PSS)

What is Psycho-Social Support?

The term psychosocial means the dynamic relationship between the psychological and social effects, of events on individuals. Psychosocial Counselling is important because helping the client to identify his/her problem and make choices will build his or her self-esteem, empower him or her and ultimately develop resilience.

Psychosocial counseling is important because it helps the client to identify his/her problems and makes choices/find solutions in building his/her self-esteem, empower him/herself and ultimately develop resilience. Successful psychosocial counselling will turn victims to survivors.

Trauma is a complex and difficult word to define. It should be noted that the word shock brought by trauma might cause a long-term change in an individual. Trauma tears apart the complex system of self-protection of an individual that normally functions in an integrated fashion. Trauma arrests the normal course of development by the repetitive intrusion into the survivor’s life.

Why is psychosocial counseling important?

  • it helps the client or child/survivor to identify their problems and make choices to build their esteem
  • it also empowers a survivor and ultimately develop resilience
  • it helps the survivor identifies his/her problems, makes choices/solutions
  • it will ultimately turn victims to survivors.

Note: In most cases the absence of psychosocial counseling will lead the victims to become traumatized

What are psychological effects?

This refers to those, which affect:

* Emotions            – Outward expressions of inner feelings — laugh, smile, cry etc.

* Behavior            – Conduct — e.g. grumbler, glutton, and drunkard, recluse.

* Thoughts            – Thinking, “the world is coming to an end”; I am a failure”, I am defiled”

* Memory              – Difficult to remember, to recall events.

* Learning ability- Short attention span, cannot concentrate, lack of motivation

* Perceptions       – How you perceive and understand things – calling a snake a lizard, a dog a cat,

Definition:

The term psychosocial simply underlines the dynamic relationship between the psychological and social effects, each continually influencing the other.

Why is psychosocial support important?

It is designed to meet four broad functional needs of survivors and/ or affected persons in crisis situations. Some psychosocial needs in situations like mudslides and flooding crisis situations has:

Psychological effects:

These are the ones that affect emotions, behavior, thoughts, memory, learning ability, perception and understanding.

Social effects:

These refer to altered relationships due to death, separation, estrangement, other losses, family and community breakdown, damage to social values and customary practices, the destruction of social facilities and services.

Social effects also include the economic dimension as many individual and family become destitute through the material and economic devastation, thus losing their social status and place in their familiar social networks.

Economic Effects:

Relate above effects to its impact on the economy- No schooling, no work, no community shows/night clubs, no Cinemas, no games etc.

Spiritual Effects:

  • Lack of trust in God and believe in his existence
  • Isolation from prayers
  • Poor listening or concentrations

What are some psychosocial needs of children affected by crisis events like mudslides and flooding?

Restoring moral values

  • Love, and care
  • Tolerance
  • Empathy
  • Spiritual Guidance
  • Building self-steam

Why do we need psychosocial support for parents and Community members?

Psychosocial Counseling:

Psychosocial counseling is one of the strategies employed for the rehabilitation of the mind of victims for their successful integration and resettlement into their various homes and communities. Its approach to healing is holistic, that is the physical, psychological and social well-being of individuals.

It is important because it helps the clients to identify his/her problem and make choices that will build his/her self-esteem, empower him/her and ultimately develop resilience.

Successful psychosocial counselling will turn victims to survivors

 

PROVIDING PSYCHOLOGICAL FIRST AID (PFA)

What Is Psychological First Aid? 

Psychological First Aid (PFA) describes a humane, empathic and supportive response to a fellow human being who is suffering emotionally/psychologically and who may need support. PFA includes the following:

  • Providing practical care and support without imposing or encroaching on the person’s rights and human dignity.
  • Assessing needs and concerns;
  • Helping people to address basic needs (for example, food and water, information);
  • Listening to people, but not pressuring them to talk;
  • Comforting people and helping them to feel calm;
  • Helping people connect to information, services and social supports;
  • Protecting people from further harm.

What is PFA is not?

  • Something that only professionals can do.
  • Professional counselling.
  • “Psychological debriefing”, in that PFA does not necessarily involve a detailed discussion of the event that caused the distress.
  • Asking someone to analyze what happened to them or to put time and events in order.
  • Pressuring people to tell you their feelings and reactions to an event.

Active Principles of PFA:

There are three active principles:

  1. Look: Looking (observing) properly is essential to understand if there are any dangers, to see obvious basic urgent needs, and with serious distress symptoms.
    1. Check for safety.
    2. Check for people with obvious urgent basic needs.
    3. Check for people with serious distress reactions.
  1. Listen: Listening actively (reflectively) to people you are helping is essential to understand their situation and needs, to help them to feel calm, and to be able to offer appropriate help.
    1. Approach people who may need support.
    2. Ask about people’s needs and concerns.
    3. Listen to people, and help them to feel calm.
  1. Link:  Linking people with basic service providers is an essential component of ensuring that basic urgent needs are met.
    1. Help people address basic needs and access services.
    2. Help people cope with problems.
    3. Give trustworthy information.
    4. Connect people with loved ones and social support.

 

Who is PFA for?

  • PFA is for distressed people who have been recently exposed to a serious crisis event like the mudslide and flooding in Freetown, Sierra Leone. You can provide help to both children and adults, and this can include frontline service providers (such as nurses, and social workers), community members and children.
  • However, not everyone who experiences a crisis event will need or want PFA.
  • Do not forces help on people who do not want it, but make yourself easily available to those who may want support.

Are there limits to the service provided by PFA Workers?

There may be situations when someone needs much more advanced support than PFA alone. Know your limits and get help from others, such as medical personnel, mental health workers, counselors, your colleagues or other people in the area, local authorities, or community and religious leaders.

What categories of people would need more immediate advance support?

  • People whose family members have died as a result of disasters such as the Freetown mudslides and flooding.
  • Distressed health professionals working crisis communities or situations.
  • People who are so upset that they cannot care for themselves or their children.
  • Panic stricken people and those in denial of the reality of the effect of the disaster they were involved in.
  • People who are full of fear.
  • People who may hurt themselves or others.

When PFA is needed?

  • Although people may need access to help and support for a long time after an event, PFA is aimed at helping people who have been very recently affected by a crisis event.
  • You can provide PFA when you first have contact with very distressed people. This is usually during or immediately after an event. However, it may sometimes be days or weeks after, depending on how long the event lasted and how severe it was.
  • Research has shown that PFA can assist people affected by a crisis event to avoid long term mental health problems, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).

Where PFA is needed?

You can offer PFA wherever it is safe enough for you to do so. This is often in

  • Community settings;
  • Places where distressed people are served, such as health centres, shelters or camps, schools, etc.
  • Distribution sites for food or other types of help;

Remember basic principle to stay safe:

Ideally, try to provide PFA where you can have some privacy to talk with the person when appropriate. When delivering PFA it is essential to respect confidentiality and the person’s dignity.

When you take on the responsibility to help in situations where people have been affected by a distressing event, it is important to act in ways that respect the safety, dignity and rights of the people you are helping.

Safety

  • Avoid putting people at further risk of harm as a result of your actions.
  • Make sure, to the best of your ability, that the adults and children you help are safe and protect them from physical or psychological harm.

Dignity

  • Treat people with respect and with humility.

Rights

  • Make sure people can access help fairly and without discrimination.
  • Help people to claim their rights and access available support.
  • Act only in the best interest of any person you encounter.

Try to keep these principles in mind in all of your actions and with all people you encounter, whatever their age, gender or ethnic background. Consider how you would like to be treated in the same situation and treat people that way.

What are the DO’s and Don’ts during PFA?

It is important for all to know that there are ethical principles to observe when providing PFA at all times and these must be practiced.

Dos

  • Be honest and trustworthy.
  • Respect people’s right to make their own decision.
  • Be aware of and set aside your own biases and prejudices.
  • Make it clear to people that even if they refuse help now, they can still access help in the future.
  • Respect privacy and keep the person’s story confidential, if this is appropriate.
  • Behave appropriately by considering the person’s culture, age and gender.

Don’ts                                   

  • Don’t exploit your relationship as a helper.
  • Don’t ask the person for any money or favor for helping.
  • Don’t make false promises or give false information.
  • Don’t exaggerate your skills.
  • Don’t force help on people, and don’t be intrusive or pushy.
  • Don’t pressure people to tell you their story.
  • Don’t share the person’s story with others.
  • Don’t judge the person for their actions or feelings.
  • Don’t give false hope.

Note:

Much of PFA is ensuring that the people have access to the right information and sharing the correct information. Therefore it is essential when offering PFA that you are aware of what other agencies are doing, where survivors or affected persons should seek help, who they should ask for, who is responsible for child protection issues, case management, food, mental health and other forms of health care (what to do with treatment for other illnesses besides mental health and psychosocial issues and how to minimize risks of potential outbreaks – Hence a clear referral path to holistic care).

Helping responsibly means also that you have to look after yourself and your own mental wellbeing. As a helper, you may also be affected by the crisis event or have family, friends and colleagues who are. 

It is important to pay extra attention to your own wellbeing and be sure that you are physically and emotionally able to help others. Take care of yourself so that you can best care for others. If working in a team, be aware of the wellbeing of your fellow helpers as well.

Tips on Good Communication Skills

  • Sit face to face if culturally appropriate.
  • Find a quiet place where the person feels free to talk.
  • Lean towards the person.
  • Nod or use facial expressions or gestures to encourage the person to say more or to let them know you understand.
  • Notice the person’s body posture.
  • Notice the facial expression.
  • Look for what is not said as well as what is said.
  • Find the real feelings behind the story and body language.

Listen Carefully and Try to Remember What the Person Says

  • Re-state what has been said to show you understand.
  • Ask to clarify or to understand the person better.
  • Give appropriate feedback – reassurance, suggestions, encouraging responses.

Tips on Active Listening Skills

  • Avoid interruptions or distractions.
  • Show interest in the person.
  • Be kind and respectful.
  • Concentrate on the person, not on your problems or what you want to say.
  • Be patient. Give time to the speaker – allow pauses and silences to take effect.
  • Be a trustworthy person who keeps secrets. (Confidentiality)
  • Be empathic and approachable.
  • Be tolerant and accept the person without being judgmental.
  • Avoid keeping in mind rumors about your speaker that will influence your listening.
  • Have courage to tolerate reactions or behavior that is off-putting (there’s a reason someone behaves that way).
  • Believe there is good in every person.

Don’t:

  • Blame
  • Undermine or minimize what the person says
  • Give advice or solutions (listen to the solution of the speaker)
  • Immediately tell your story of a similar experience
  • Lie or tell half-truths
  • Promise things that you cannot afford (you will lose trust)
  • Discipline or use an intimidating voice
  • Interpret what they say without clarifying it

GRIEF & LOSS

Understanding the realities of Grief and Loss:
In life many of us have lost someone or something that we love. For instance, loss occurs when someone we love died or is separated, as losing a sister, co-workers, brother, father, mother, friend, relative or a property. The state of losing someone that we love is a grieving experience, so it is a painful experience that hurts us; therefore grief is made up of a mix of displeasing feelings as sadness, frustration, loneliness, irascibility, annoyance and anger among others displeasing feelings for instance

What is Grief & Loss in Crisis Situations?
These days, most people spend more of their time within their communities. People who dwell together in their communities may become close like an extended family. Therefore when a colleague dies or one is grieving a death or a loss, the impact on his/her friends can be tremendous and can influence the communities in a variety of ways. Communal development can be compromised and the dynamics of the community can change. When the death is unexpected, in a violent act or an accident as in the case of the mudslide and flooding in Freetown Sierra Leone, the grief response can be quite traumatic for the survivors, further impacting community progress.
Each person’s experience of loss and each grief response is unique. However there are some common feelings and symptoms often experienced by the grieving. These include: sadness, betrayal, anxiety, fear, mistrust, irritability, guilt, anger, tension, depression, and loss of confidence. Grieving people often develop physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, changes in appetite, increased drug or alcohol use, restlessness, absentmindedness, and poor concentration. These emotions and symptoms of grief response can significantly impact a person’s ability to function.
Thus, grief can upset communities’ progress and hamper community members’ relationships. When a community member experiences a loss or an illness their ability to deal with the grieving process can become even more prolonged if the person does not feel aided by his/her family, friends and community members. Those who feel cared for and supported are more likely to have improved recovery.
Responding to issues of loss?
• Accept that grief is a normal response to loss and healing takes time.
• Anticipate that there will be time when the grief recurs and you may be overcome with the intense emotions anew.
• Be cognizant of special dates—holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays.
• Realize that not everyone is comfortable dealing with grief. Friends and loved ones may not be able to handle your grief response.
• Search out supportive people who will listen to your story of grief.
• Find other creative ways of coping with the loss.
• Share your feelings with friends and family.
Support to community or family member experiencing personal loss
• Acknowledge the grief process of that individual.
• Let the person know you empathize with the impact of their loss.
• Expect tears and sadness.
• Express sympathy openly and from the heart—whether in person or in writing.
• Expect to listen to the story of the grieving colleague again and again.
• Respect the grieving person’s desire for privacy. Honor closed doors and silence in conversation.
• Offer specific and appropriate assistance—cooking a meal, caring for children, helping with shopping or other errands.
• Accept less than their best performance from their normal activities for a while, but expect a return to the best over time.

Responding to the issues of death – A cultural approach
• Arrange for a meeting. This gives family members and community members the opportunity to grieve and share their feelings. Sudden, accidental or violent deaths as in the case of flooding and mudslides may require additional times for people to talk.
• Those who were particularly close with the deceased may need additional support.
• If appropriate, choose someone to serve as the family liaison to organize and spare head funeral plans – including expression of sympathy be it flowers, cards, or donations, etc.
• Take the time to grieve. Honor the person who died in an appropriate way. Some suggestions:
• Create a condolence book.
• Collect money for a charitable donation.
• Share tributes
• Attend the funeral or memorial service.
Supporting bereaved families or community members in their grieving processes
• Immediately acknowledge the death and demonstrate support for the grieving person – Can make some financial contributions (based on need).
• A representation could be made at the funeral/memorial service.
• Providing some flexibility for any negative response due to the impact of the loss.
• Being patient and understanding that the grieving process takes time and that the friends and family members will not quickly “snap out of it” will also help.
Other things worth taking note of:
• Let the person grieve in his or her own way. If the person finds working to be therapeutic, do not lighten the workload.
• If the grieving person is slow to move back into normal routine work, try to ease his/her workload.
• Accept that the grieving person’s moods may be changeable for some time. It helps to be aware that intense feelings can suddenly re-emerge which are beyond the person’s control.
• Expect tears. They are a normal part of the grieving process.
• Avoid being judgmental of however the individual grieves. Some people may become numb and the grieving process is delayed for weeks or even months after the death.
• Respect the grieving person’s privacy, need for solitude and confidentiality.
• Watch out for other family or community members. Old memories, feelings and grief may be triggered as a result of the co-worker’s loss. It may be necessary to honor the old grief separately from the newly grieving person.
• Be careful in sharing stories of your own losses unless you’re certain the person can tolerate it.

STRESS MANAGEMENT

What is Stress?

Stress is the emotional or mental strains we experience as we strive to adjust to our environment which is always changing.

Is Stress Good or Bad?

Stress can have good (positive) or bad (negative) effects on us depending on how we react to our experiences. As a good effect, stress can:

  • Help compel us to action
  • Help focus ones attention on the situation at hand.
  • Mobilize your energy and prepares you for action (fight or flight).
  • Result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective.

As a bad effect, Stress can have a negative effect when we “buy into” or become entangled with its message.

What are the sources of stress?

  • Self – the way one reacts to an experience determines the way one feels (positive or negative).
  • Relationships – our expectations of those we relate with influence the way we feel at any given time and situation.
  • Environment – a lot of things happen daily in our environment beyond our control. They influence our reactions and the way we feel.
  • Transition – change brings growth but human beings are afraid of change. This creates tension in them.
  • Hassles – our daily ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ may be very demanding or difficult which in turn affect our emotions.

We could say stress is a physical, mental and emotional response on something, and it is not in our control if something is stressful for us. But we can learn a lot how to deal powerfully with the emergence of stress.

How Does Stress Affect a Person?

When we struggle against stress or adopt its negative messages it affects us physically (body), mentally (mind), emotionally (feelings), behaviorally (automatic actions) and spiritually (beliefs).

How does crisis situations stress affect you in relation to the following?

  • In the mind (thinking/feeling)
  • In behavior (how we act)
  • In the body (physical response)
  • Spiritually
  • In the workplace setting/culture

In the mind

  • Feeling anxious, overwhelmed, irritable, angry, upset, sad/depressed, “jumpy”/hyper vigilant, fearful
  • Having nightmares, obsessive thinking, emotional or angry outbursts
  • Noting poor concentration/memory, poor problem solving or decision making, etc.

In behavior

  • Withdrawing from co-workers, difficulty taking breaks/resting, talking too much
  • Angry outbursts (with co-workers or clients), loss or increase of appetite, jumping from one activity to another (unfocused)
  • Increased alcohol consumption or smoking, change in normal communications, etc.

In the body

  • Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, weakness, nausea, muscle tightness (neck, shoulders, jaw)
  • Sweating, shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, teeth grinding, etc.

Spiritually

  • Feelings of loss or direction and purpose, emptiness
  • Feeling punished, apathy, crisis of faith, etc.

In the workplace

  • Low morale, apathy, silence, impaired communication, isolation, lack of teamwork and team spirit
  • Low productivity, aggressive or confrontational behavior, high rates of absenteeism due to stress and illness, drug and alcohol abuse, etc.

How can one manage stress?

ACT (Acceptance Commitment Training) – is a behavioral therapy that aims to help people create rich, full and meaningful lives, whilst accepting that life inevitably brings pain.  ACT uses mindfulness exercises to help handle painful thoughts and feelings, and supports taking action in a valued direction to achieve goals that really matter.

What happens at first when we do what is familiar?

  • It feels comforting.
  • The world feels normal.
  • It is familiar.
  • It is convenient.
  • It gives confidence

It feels fulfilling / satisfying.

What happens when we do things differently?

  • Sometimes it feels like we are doing it wrongly.
  • We feel confused.
  • We feel lost.
  • It feels unfamiliar.
  • It creates inconveniences.
  • It feels strange.
  • It reduces confidence

Basic Stress Management Techniques/Coping Skills

1: Recognize warning signs of excessive stress

  • Self-awareness is the foundation of stress management – Feeling overwhelmed at work or in your personal life is draining and can make you feel irritable, withdrawn and ineffective. Many of us feel stress so often that it begins to feel normal. The first step in better managing your stress is to simply recognize it, so that it does not grow into bigger problems – affecting your physical and emotional health. We can learn simple ways to “check ourselves” for stress.
  • Become aware of stress by observing your muscles, insides and your breath

If you notice muscle tension or other internal signals (such as tightness in your jaw or hands, neck, tightness in your stomach, headache), your body is telling you that you are under excessive stress. Another signal of stress is when you notice that your breathing becomes shallow, or when you “forget” to breathe (versus relaxed deeper belly breathing).

2: Reduce Stress through Self-Care

  • The better you feel, the better you will be prepared to confront stress without being overwhelmed. This means taking care of your health physically and emotionally. Even small things can help you to have more energy and feel more in control of your situation, both at home and at work. Some self-care ideas include:
  • Exercise – When we move our bodies our heart rate is elevated, which helps to lift our mood, increase energy, and relax our mind and body. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity most days. If it is difficult to find that much time in your day, break the activity into two or three shorter segments. Try walking, stretching, or participate in a sport (examples might include football, dancing, etc.)
  • Socialize and Connect with others – Talk with your family or friends when you feel stressed. Simply sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can help. Develop friendships with your co-workers, as this can help protect you from the negative effects of stress. Find a “vent partner” – a trusted friend who you know will listen to you and give objective advice. Listening and supporting one another can relieve stress.
  • Take Breaks, Time away

When you become aware that stress is mounting, take a quick break to move away from the situation. Go on a quick brisk walk, take a minute to meditate or pray. Sometimes physical movement, engaging in positive self-talk and changing your environment can help you to “reset” and enhance your ability to cope.

  • Make Healthy Food and Drink Choices – Eat healthy meals and snacks, including fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. If you get hungry between meals, eat snacks with protein (such as groundnuts, cashew nuts, etc.) to keep your energy up during the day. Avoid foods with lots of salt, sugar (including sweets, juice and soda drinks), and processed foods, as these types of foods can make you tired and more vulnerable to health problems. Use caffeine in moderation, as your mood and energy can “crash” afterwards
  • Avoid Drinking, Smoking or Taking Pills or Drugs to Relax – Alcohol can temporarily reduce stress, but it can be hard on the body and lead to abuse and dependence. Similarly, the nicotine found in tobacco can be temporarily calming, and later lead to higher levels of anxiety and health problems. Medications to ease pain, like any drugs, can help us to feel better in the short term but do not address underlying stressors and can become addictive.
  • Practice Healthy Sleeping Habits – Getting adequate sleep is critical. When you are rested you are better equipped to deal with stress during the day. Aim for eight hours of sleep a night and take naps if you are able. Arrange your sleeping area so it is comfortable for you and avoid watching TV, working on the computer, worrying, arguing, etc. before going to bed.
  • Enjoy Cultural, Spiritual and Social Activities- Get engaged with your community for song, dance, and cultural activities. It is good to express yourself and socialize with your neighbors. Another critical part of self-care involves nurturing your spiritual side – so try to make time for self-reflection, meditation and prayer
  • Look for humor – When used appropriately, humor can be a great way to release stress. When you feel things are getting too serious or heavy, look for ways to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or story. It is important to have fun and laugh, even at work.
  • Know your limits – Don’t over commit yourself! Don’t try to fit too much into one day. If you feel you have too much on your plate, prioritize and drop tasks that are not essential. Ask for hel Learn to say “no” and set limits when you are asked to take on more than you can handle. If you feel overwhelmed at work, ask to meet with your manager and discuss how best to prioritize the tasks at hand.
  • Create a balanced schedule- Analyze your schedule, responsibilities and daily t Plan at least one fun or enjoyable social activity into your schedule every day. Find a balance between work and family; alone time is also important to avoid burnout.
  • Deep Breathing- Deep breathing is a simple but very effective method of relaxatio It can be used to “take a deep breath” to calm someone down in a crisis, as well as in mediation, prayer or during slow stretching of your muscles. You can use this technique in combination with other relaxation techniques (visualization exercise) to reduce stress.