Being mindful of our mental health during times of social unrest

Being mindful of our mental health during times of social unrest

At the beginning of this year, who could have guessed that we would see ourselves battling the third wave of the pandemic and protests across KZN and Gauteng triggered by the arrest of Jacob Zuma. As the protests progressed into looting and total chaos, we realised that this was more than just about the arrest of Jacob Zuma. There is a much deeper, rooted, issue we are facing as a country. Poverty, social injustice, corruption, these are just but a few. These unprecedented times have caused major fear and temulent emotions about our present safety and the future. We need to be mindful of the effects this has on our emotional state, and act to prevent poor mental health.

During the week of unrest, we saw a range of mixed emotions amongst our children. Holiday placements with family in community had already cancelled because of the level 4 lockdown, so all our children remained at the centre. Children were fearful for the safety and well-being of themselves but more especially for their parents. Watching incidents as they occurred on the roads around the centre, on social media and over the news; whilst keeping us abreast of what was happening, was also the trigger of confusion, anxiety and heightened negative emotions.  Even our child care team struggled to put their own feelings aside as they responded to our children.

“Social unrest typically refers to the general dissatisfaction of a group and the ways they bring attention to societal problems. Even if you don’t belong to the dissatisfied group, you may experience intense emotions and triggers based on how the issues that are deeply rooted in the country affect you personally.” With the combined prolonged fear and resulting stress of COVID-19 and the social unrest, we need to be aware of the symptoms of mental health conditions.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by your emotions and it’s difficult to disconnect from the feelings of those around you. During this time, we helped our children express their feelings and assured them that it is normal to try and figure out where you fit in what is happening. Comfort and strength come from understanding what is happening, even when it is out of your control! Beware though, – while you do this, it is important to make a concerted effort to avoid going down a path of negative thoughts and uncontrollable emotions. It is important to take care of yourself. Below are some useful links we found that can help you manage your mental health: