Keeping Calm under Quarantine

Caring for mental health can be challenging in a lockdown. A Family Services expert discusses the importance of reassuring teenagers and keeping anxiety at bay.
July 28, 2020 - NPH International

Nelly Fernandez, NPHI Family Services mental health coordinator, runs a youth workshop at NPH Nicaragua.

These are difficult and complex times. Each of us around the globe experiences stress, fear, and uncertainty on a daily basis. And it is great to have people to talk to—to help stay balanced mentally.

When we talk about mental health in NPH, we talk about social workers, psychologists, and therapists; however, due to quarantine protocols in this pandemic, some of our professional staff are confined to their own homes and are unable to enter NPH Homes. Other staff had the option and decided to stay within the NPH Homes during quarantine (in accordance with local government restrictions).

It is a challenge to adapt our normal responses to the requirements of these times, specifically social distancing and virtual communication.

Nelly Fernandez, NPHI mental health coordinator, wrote a note of encouragement to her colleagues recently:

“I want you to know that you are not alone. You are part of a bigger team. We are a multicultural team from nine countries and many more. We are internationally united by a common cause: our vocation to serve the mission of NPH. I have witnessed on many occasions your dedication and how you rise to the calling of your profession to reach out and provide support to those in need. Now it is time for us to share and inspire each other to rise up and stand together.”

Via digital communication channels, we keep in touch to share ideas, to consult with each other, to reflect on next steps, and inspire and motivate each other.

One specific group that needs our attention right now is our adolescents. Being a teenager is difficult regardless. In a global pandemic, it is even harder. With school closures and canceled events, many teenagers are missing out on some of the most important moments of their young lives—as well as everyday moments like chatting with friends and going to class.

Teenagers feeling anxious, isolated, and disappointed need to know “they are not alone.” We have to teach them good self-care and how to look after their own mental health.

First of all, we have to let them know that their feelings of anxiety are completely normal and that they are not the only ones with these feelings. Normally, anxiety helps us to make decisions and take proactive measures to protect ourselves and the people around us.

Washing our hands frequently and trying not to touch our faces are not sufficient distractions to eradicate all the anxieties. In times of uncertainty and difficulty, it is important to divide our problems in two categories: Things I can do something about and things I cannot. In this age of COVID-19, there are many things in the second category we can do nothing about.

Doing homework, studying, listening to music, reading, doing arts and crafts, playing sports, and dancing are great distractions, but painful feelings also need adequate time and space. The only way to deal with these kinds of feelings is to process them in a healthy way without hurting oneself or others. “Be kind to yourself and others!” is the overall message. Processing one’s feelings looks different from person to person; we can be both creative and flexible.

Now more than ever we as adults need to be thoughtful role models and show teenagers how to talk about COVID-19. Here some basics:

- Speak correctly and accurately about risks from COVID-19. Base your comments on scientific data and the latest official health advice, instead of rumor.

- Talk positively and emphasize the importance of effective prevention measures.

- Discuss the coronavirus disease, but do not attach location or ethnicity to the disease.

- Talk about people who have COVID-19, but not as ‘cases’ or ‘victims.’

- Do not blame others for transmitting COVID-19, infecting others, or spreading the virus. We describe people as ‘acquiring’ or ‘contracting’ COVID-19.

- Likewise, talk in a respectful and honest way about ‘people who have COVID-19,’ ‘people who are being treated for COVID-19,’ ‘people who are recovering from COVID-19,’ or ‘people who died after contracting COVID-19.’

The most important thing is don’t drive yourself crazy by listening to others ruminate endlessly or by taking on the anxieties of others.

To learn more about the programs and activities carried out by the NPHI Family Services team in support of psychologists in our nine homes during COVID-19, visit: Stimulating Children's Minds in a COVID-19 Lockdown.

Please support our NPH homes during this time of need. Any help you can give is well received and accepted graciously. Please visit for more information.

Markus Streit
Coordinator, NPHI Family Services




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