One of the outcomes of a society that fosters independence, individualism, self-reliance, self-ego and consumerism is the resistance to asking for help. Moreso, even in a crisis when professional helpers are provided on tap, most often they are not accessed (https://www.smh.com.au/business/small-business/employee-assistance-programs-endangered-service-20180315-p4z4jw.html ). I worked in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service for a few years and the uptake was very low in most organisations.
When were in the midst of the Beaconsfield crisis a room of clinical and practical counsellors sat idle for several weeks. People didn’t go to the counsellors to talk, they went to friends, family and to the clergy and had cups of tea, coffee and ‘chats’. It seems that even in a crisis people who seek help do so unconsciously and informally where they feel safe. Nothing is more destructive to well being than breaching confidentiality, a lack of trust and a ‘clinical’ approach that has no foundation in relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with someone and ask them if they are OK, you’ll probably get a yes answer.
A society that fosters individualistic and behaviourist approaches to resilience projects the problem onto the individual. The common approach to resilience is captured in the mythology of: ‘pull yourself up by your own bootlaces, I did!’ When you are in the depths of depression or anxiety and people are paraded out as heroes in resilience it often adds to the problem. Often we think we are parading an example of inspiration when it creates greater separation for those in the midst of depression.
If resilience is not understood as social resilience, it is unlikely to be successful.
Evidences of depression are social disconnection, withdrawal and isolation (https://www.lifeline.org.au/static/uploads/files/lifeline-factsheet-12-depression-wfubrsuerjvl.pdf) If the evidence of depression is social why would we think its solution is individual? Most of the time the warning signs are private. You don’t know and without a relationship, you are unlikely to know. We certainly know that resilience cannot be ‘engineered’ (https://safetyrisk.net/why-resilience-cannot-be-engineered/). Resilience is an organic and ecological dynamic not a mechanical process.
There is a perception in workplaces that having a cup of coffee or tea and a chat is ‘downtime’ and real productivity is ‘up time’, is when things get ‘done’. The idea of someone floating about building relationships, listening and ‘attending’ (https://glosbe.com/en/en/psychological%20attending) is perceived as ‘down time’. We might also call this ‘practicing presence’. Attending carries no agenda, no judgment and just values listening and ‘being with’. In a world of busyness this takes time and people who tend to do attending well are often judged as ‘wasting time’. It’s a catch 22.
There are heaps of professional resources available at this time of Covid 19 (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health-safety/covid19_stressmanagement_5_accessible.pdf; https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health-safety/covid19_stressmanagement_5_accessible.pdf ). But the greatest resource in the workplace is most likely you. If you are concerned about someone you don’t need to ask them if they are OK, you need to get to know them better. Give some time to them, listen and create an activity to do together. Even a walking together 1.5m apart can be a help or a facetime chat. And with no agenda!
You don’t have to be a counsellor or psychologist to be a helper or carer of someone else or to receive help and care from someone else. Sometimes it’s harder to receive than give too. Being helpful is not a technique but a disposition away from self and towards an other.