30/03/2021

I think the pandemic has taught some of us more empathy

Kiwi Patel
Kiwi Patel

Police officer working in London

This year we’re working with Mind’s Blue Light programme to support the mental health of the UK’s emergency services, and to share stories of their experiences during the pandemic.

I’m Kiwi, and I joined the police force in 2012 – just after I was diagnosed with leukemia. I literally went from cancer to copper! Right now, I am working within the Youth Engagement team, supporting frontline officers to improve their approach to younger people.

I have had some tough experiences in the past – I had a major breakdown in 2015, in part because of my illness, my divorce, and going through six bereavements​Dealing with death and grief: Dying Matters PDF COVID-19 is causing many people to die before their time. This can be very distressing for those who work with vulnerable people, who not only may feel bereaved themselves but may also have to support patients' friends and family. This guide can help.Free By: Hospice UK / Dying Matters View resource in just seven months. But, when it came to work, I felt like I was able to just “get on with it” and luckily haven’t experienced any seriously traumatic incidents​Self support techniques after a traumatic incident PDF Healthy processing of traumatic incidents is essential in policing to reset your stress response, to file events as past, and to move on to the next job. This guide can help.Free By: Police Dependants’ Trust View resource on the job.

I’m an extrovert, and it was hard to adjust

However, when the pandemic began, things changed. Because of my history of leukaemia, I was told I was clinically vulnerable, and I needed to shield. This meant staying at home, and not seeing any family or friends at all even when restrictions were lighter. My work has changed too – instead of meeting people face-to-face, I am now only seeing people online​Ways to make video calls less stressful Web page Video calls can be more stressful than a face-to-face chat. This quick guide from Leapers offers tips and hints on reducing anxiety before and during these calls.Free By: Leapers View resource. This had a big impact on my mental health – just not having that connection with others affected me. I’m an extrovert, and it was hard to adjust to this new way of living.

A man gazes out of the window.

I was worried that I might end up using alcohol​How much is too much? Know your alcohol limits Web page Stress and anxiety can cause our use of alcohol to increase, and it's sadly all too easy to miss the signs that your drinking habits have become problematic. This might be even more of an issue for the fire service than it is for other industries.Free By: The Fire Fighters Charity View resource as a crutch to get through this difficult time. It’s a problem I have experienced in the past. And so, I made a conscious effort to avoid drinking too much. I still enjoy a beer, but I know your alcohol consumption can rise when you’re in a challenging situation. It can help numb the pain in the short-term, but it’s much worse for you in the long run, so I was determined not to fall into that trap.

Instead, I decided to focus on my fitness​Importance of being active PDF This one-page PDF from Unilever suggests three tests you can perform to test your own flexibility and balance, which are key indicators of your physical health.Free By: Unilever View resource. I picked some goals to work towards, like the 2.6 challenge. This encourages you to take part in an activity you enjoy while raising money for charity. You don’t need to be a big strong person who goes to the gym and bench presses 200 kilos to be able to enjoy fitness – for some people, just standing up from their chair and sitting down again could be exercise.

We’re going to find some things difficult and awkward

When it comes to returning to normal, I think it’s important to remember that being social is a skill. And, like any skill, while we’ve not been using it, we might be out of practice when we go back out into the world. I think of it like being an Olympic athlete: if you ran the 800 metres and set a world record, but then went home and sat on your sofa for a year, you’re not going to be able to jump up and run just as fast again straight away. It’s going to be the same when we start going back out into the world and seeing people again. We’re going to find some things difficult and awkward, but that’s okay.

Credit City London Police

Photo from City of London Police

In some ways, I think the pandemic has taught some of us more empathy. Before, if someone with a lot of money was feeling lonely or bored, they could plan a nice holiday or go out to a restaurant. But the coronavirus has levelled the playing field, and people are understanding what it is like when you can’t do all the fun things you enjoy. Some people were able to use their money to fill voids in their life, but now they see and understand loneliness and anxiety​Managing anxiety during the coronavirus crisis Website Education Support have put together a series of resources to help teachers and educators to cope with feelings of anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis.Free By: Education Support View resource that they might not have done before. I hope this leads to more compassion for others going forward.

If the issues in this article feel familiar, we hope you’ll share it with colleagues, friends or family to help us spread awareness of the reality of life for emergency responders – and to encourage colleagues to seek help when they need it.

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