CANPA: Psychological Respones to the Coronavirus-COVID-19 for the Caribbean Region
The Caribbean Region is diverse and multicultural in language, history and lifestyle and attracts persons from around the world. Along with preexisting challenges impacting on the socioeconomic fabric of our societies, Coronavirus, COVID-19, now spreading in the region will significantly increase stress levels and all anxiety disorders. Given that elevation of stress weakens the immune system, it is predicted that there will be an increase in health challenges faced especially by older citizens and those who are immune compromised. These challenges also lead to stigma and discrimination which is counter-productive to maintaining public health. It is critical that accurate information is available for effective decision making and that we avoid further stress due to the discrepancies in news reported and information circulated especially via social media. We as psychologists have important roles to play as advocates, resource persons to policy makers and program managers, as well as service providers to our clients.
CANPA is providing access to valid information to guide decision making by psychological professionals and others with regard to personal and community responses to the pandemic. As such, we have included links of various documents that we have reviewed and believe effectively address the mosaic of the region and which are relevant to our field in our various sectors. We ask that our members to review these documents and distribute them to your members and all relevant entities. Furthermore, we ask that you pay particular attention to the ways in which this information may be applied to the following:
Developing public awareness and health promotion campaigns:
- Ensuring accurate information from valid sources regarding changing behavior.
- Raising awareness while avoiding crippling fear messages that lead to denial and stigmatization.
- Promoting self-efficacy and the skills for prevention in all messaging
- Promoting and accurate risk assessment (context, age, stage, gender, etc.).
- Promoting culturally appropriate messages that preempt resistance to uptake.
- Debunking of myths.
- Highlighting the important role of influential people as decision makers and messengers.
- Emphasizing critical need for coordination and collaboration.
We suggest, as have the experts, that key messages be reinforced and that we as psychologists can play a key role in the behavioral analysis to support adherence to recommended protocols to include:
- Hygiene and Behavioral modifications
- Wash your hands.
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean surfaces before touching whenever possible.
- Don't touch your face.
- Stay away from crowds and close contact where possible.
- You can't tell by looking so anybody could put you at risk.
- Just because you are at low risk doesn't mean you can't be a high risk to others.
- Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable including the elderly and those with chronic health issues
- Mitigating the impact on children, stemming from family stress- from child care to closed schools, and possible self-quarantined adult family members.
- Supporting our colleagues and health care providers and their competence and stress levels particularly in light of the strained capacity of the medical system to respond to the increased care demands.
- Mitigating against the impact of fear, anxiety and panic as it relates to mental health as well as public and social behaviors.
- Use peer pressure positively: through promoting the message that we are our brothers'/sisters' keepers, through "nudging" each other and providing information to encourage healthy behavior and help create new norms.
- Promote self-quarantining to minimize risk that one poses to others. Examine and address the other risks that may come from quarantine in high risk families where dangerous behaviors such as family violence and child molestation increase.
- Consider the ways in which other services may be engaged in the response to the pandemic E.g. use of a hotline to provide information to the general public inclusive of what resources and protocols exist. Be sure to keep in mind the timeliness and consistency of the message.