Hungry for human connection
It is essential that we hold-on to the community spirit that sparked at the beginning of lockdown
Carlota Morais did a paid internship at Be Enriched as part of our EcoTalent project.
EcoTalent is one of 31 Our Bright Future projects across the UK. Each one is equipping 11-24 year olds to make a difference in their local community and for the environment. Our Bright Future is a £33 million programme funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.
In December 2019 Wuhan, capital of China’s Hubei province, was the heart of the Covid-19 outbreak that has since turned the world upside down, making us revisit our priorities and quickly adapt to a new normal. Reaching official pandemic status on the 11th of March 2020, countries around the world swiftly implemented measures in order to contain the spread of the virus, such as nationwide lockdowns.
In the United Kingdom specifically, lockdown was implemented on the 23rd of March, which led to the closure of all businesses that where not considered essential, social distancing was reinforced and people were advised to work from home. The only four justifiable reasons to go outside where for food shopping, medical needs, exercising once a day or to provide care to vulnerable people. Those who qualify as vulnerable are the elderly, anyone with an underlying health condition regardless of age and those who are pregnant. An exceptional category was created for the 1.5 million considered clinically extremely vulnerable who where advised to shield for at least 12 weeks. In short, all non-essential contact with others was to be avoided. Emergency state support packages were issued in order to support and protect people and businesses from the predictable negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. However, even these could not, and did not, address some pressing issues that bubbled up to the surface during lockdown, as it became evident that the pandemic was affecting people differently.
The subsequent socio-economic crisis associated with the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown has amplified certain inequalities within society. In the UK structural violence persists, as it’s visible in the systematic ways in which some humans are hindered from equal access to goods, opportunities and services that enable the fulfilment of basic human needs. Some forms of structural violence are deeply embedded and lead to marginalisation and allow for discrimination that can be based on age, class, sex, race etc. For example, the virus has been disproportionally affecting not only the vulnerable and extremely vulnerable but also BAME communities, people with disabilities, homeless as well as those from low income households or employed in certain occupations, such as public-facing ones. Some reasons presented as explanations are all variants of structural violence: structural racism, existing health inequalities as well as housing conditions.
Nonetheless, beyond disproportionate confirmed cases and death rates, there is a huge issue that the pandemic and lockdown have exacerbated, but because its silent and rarely mentioned by the media, people are not as aware of it. The issue is loneliness and how it can take a huge toll on mental wellbeing. The aforementioned vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, as well as those who live alone, have been tremendously impacted by the sudden mutation of human contact into something abnormal, scary and ultimately to be avoided. By depriving people from the simplest of human interactions, such as thanking the cashier at the supermarket, saying hello to a bus driver, or walking to the corner shop to buy a newspaper, some where left without their only or main social interactions. Also, due to the fact that social gatherings where prohibited, friends and family could not fill in that gap.
Now that we are somewhat returning to business as usual and as restrictions lift, we need to remember that loneliness, as an invisible ramification of Covid, will linger. It is essential that we hold-on to the community spirit that sparked at the beginning of lockdown, remember the simple acts of kindness, fundraisers big and small and the clapping sessions on Thursday evenings to thank the NHS and essential workers. A sense of a tight-knit community can be maintained through 3 simple steps. First one being to make every single social interaction from now onwards meaningful. Appreciate every single one you get, for example, make sure to greet and thank every single essential worker that allows you to maintain a sense of normalcy, and if you are up for it, if you didn’t do it before, start greeting your neighbours. A second tip is to take the time to teach those within your circle how to properly use social media and technology such as smart phones, tablets and such, as it can be intimidating for some, especially the elderly. This way, they can be better connected with friends and family and reach out regularly. Additionally, take your time to make calls yourself, as something as small as a 5 minute check-in can make someone’s day. Finally, get involved in community engagement and outreach in order to strengthen your own community’s social fabric. This can be done by volunteering, pushing for the re-establishment of community centres and hubs, as well as Neighbour Schemes. Above all, it’s important that we remain mindful in order to safely and better reconnect with those around us and maintain our families and communities united.
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