A novel respiratory virus is continuing to spread around the globe, which is impacting economies, health care infrastructures, communities, and individual lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the Coronavirus a “pandemic”, or a global health emergency, on January 30th (2020). Reports are streamed daily on local and national news, and each day new updates are available. These updates include the number on the death toll, number of people infected, and the number of people that have recovered locally, nationally, and globally.
COVID-19 has impacted economies, infrastructures, communities, and individual lives on a global, national, and local scale. To understand the extensive impact of the pandemic, it may be helpful to use Ecological Systems Theory to explain. Ecological Systems Theory is a model to describe an individual’s different “systems” that they have in their lives. These systems are called the microsystem, exosystem, mesosystem, and macrosystem. It is important to understand how theses systems are being affected, and on what level they are being affected on (state, national, global).
On a state level, the systems being affected are the microsystem and mesosystems. Family members, religious institutions, peers in school, and neighbors are all people involved in the individual’s micro and mesosystems (Harkonen, 2007). Due to social distancing and the restrictions on travel, a person’s ability to interact with their other family members or friends has been drastically impacted, at least in person. Schools are physically closed for the remainder of the academic year, and religious institutions are not allowed to hold services inside and in person.
On a national and state level, an individual’s exosystem and macrosystem are affected. Extended family, mass media, and social services are part of the exosystem, while economics, political systems, and social institutions are part of the macrosystem (Harkonen, 2007). Many people have lost their jobs and had to file for unemployment. Stimulus checks were recently sent out as compensation for the lost income, but that’s still hardly enough to get some families by. The economy is being hit hard.
Mass media is also extremely popular right now as the main source of information for any updates on the virus. While media is a great place to receive information quickly, lots of misinformation, or incorrect information, is out there as well. Make sure that the two places you are checking information from first come from the CDC or World Health Organization website; the most up to date and accurate information are on these websites. Another way that the macrosystem is being affected the are social values. Social values include traditions, cultural values, and laws (Harkonen, 2007). Milestones in life are being cancelled or postponed (marriages, baptisms, funerals, etc). Our celebrations and the way we value society is temporarily halted due to the pandemic. Each country is taking the necessary precautions to keep their citizens safe, but at the cost of our social values being temporarily changed.
Promoting resiliency for families and the community is crucial during this time. Research has shown that resiliency can be promoted through approaches and interventions such as the Linking Human Systems approach, and a Multisystemic Practice approach.
The Linking Human Systems approach uses the family as a focus for core healing. This approach extends social support systems that will help the family reconnect, while identifying sources of healing for the family. Sources include other individuals in the community including healthcare and legal providers. There are a few ways to use this approach effectively. The first way is to remind families about the connections they have, including extended family, the rest of the community, and other social supports. The second way is to mobilize and make the sources larger and more accessible to the family. The third way is to promote a strong feeling of connectedness between family members and the community. The way to accomplish all of these things is to designate an individual in the family or community to be the “link”. A link is a person who is the connection between professionals and the rest of the community. The link promotes group resilience, strength, pride, and traditions within the community as well (Landau, Mittal, Wieling, 2008).
The Multisystemic Practice approach works by examining areas of growth in individuals and applying those areas to a family setting. This way, resiliency and healing can occur for both the individual and within the community through collective recovery. These areas include the emergence of new opportunities, deeper relationships and increased compassion for others, feeling motivated to meet new challenges, reorganizing priorities and having a deeper appreciation for life, and having a meaningful spiritual life. The four adaptation processes also need to be applied by professionals to help foster resiliency in a family setting. These four adaptations include shared acknowledgement of reality, shared experiences of loss and survival, reorganization of the family and community, and reinvestment in future life pursuits and relationships (Walsh, 2007).
Currently, the CDC and the WHO are providing the public with information on their own websites about stress and coping. They recommend that individuals should take walks, limit their screen time, and to connect with others (2020). The CDC also provides the number to the disaster distress helpline and the national domestic violence hotline for individuals who may be suffering or overwhelmed more than usual during this time. The page also provides extensive information about how to help parents with their kids, reducing stigma, people coming out of quarantine, for responders, and for people at higher risk of contracting the virus (2020). It is highly recommended to check the CDC’s page frequently for further updates or for any help.
Landau, J., Mittal, M., & Wieling, E. (2008). Linking human systems: Strengthening individuals, families, and communities in the wake of mass trauma. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(2), 193-209. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-0606.2008.00064.x
Walsh, F. (2007). Traumatic loss and major disasters: Strengthening family and community resilience. Family process, 46(2), 207-227. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2007.00205.x
Härkönen, U. (2001). The Bronfenbrenner ecological systems theory of human development. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3d4f/99b537bdd5b18745fdef084dc34b71978ffd.pdf
Patel, A., & Jernigan, D. B. (2020). Initial public health response and interim clinical guidance for the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak—United States, December 31, 2019–February 4, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 69(5), 140. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6905e1.htm