COVID-19 has isolated us very effectively. We are all in our own “bubbles” in every sense of the word and isolation can magnify our problems by giving us the impression that we are alone to find solutions.

For myself, I see my neighbours preparing with their children for a return to school and hear their concerns. I hear my patients’ concerns. I hear parents’ concerns. As a psychiatrist for adolescents, the teams in the Youth Program are also preparing for the reopening of the schools we work with. We are reading the directives of our school boards. We listen attentively for the announcements of political leaders and teachers’ unions and health officials.

What will happen?

What will school be like?

Will it be safe?

In our rush to prepare our own children and youth to return to school, we are locally focused – right down to just getting a routine together in our own homes.

Families and children are so…solitary. It’s disheartening for them and difficult to figure out what to do.

I want to offer a small slice of hope. I found a website and it comforted me. I hope it does the same for a few others.

I know this website very well from other projects, but it really had not occurred to me to look at it during the pandemic because I thought the concerns of the parents and youth in my practice were so local. But, last night, looking for resources, I came across great information on the UNICEF website. UNICEF stands for United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. Working in 190 countries, UNICEF has information about COVID-19 that parents in any of those countries might find valuable.

I looked through the website thoroughly, after finding this excellent article on Vaccines and COVID-19. I think this could help a parent anywhere consider this subject and the UNICEF website contains many similar articles. These articles are not only valuable resources, it makes me feel optimistic about living with COVID-19 to realize that, around the world, we all have similar concerns about our children and keeping them safe.

Apart from being informed, I loved this picture from World Mask Day (August 12) of health professionals in masks. I have a picture of myself that looks like these – and so do many health professionals I know. This is a stunning reminder of our common humanity in the face of this global threat.

I have also found some terrific material to show my patients, either on our Zoom Healthcare sessions or in person once we reopen. This video essay, A pandemic through a girl’s eyes: 16 adolescent girls from nine countries film their lives under lockdown, will be the perfect catalyst for the young women in my practice to speak about the stresses they have faced during the pandemic. For youth to recover from the stress, and in some cases trauma, of the pandemic, we will need to have conversations. Showing video essays like these is an invitation to a dialogue because listening to someone else share their experience can inspire us to share our own.

Most of all, however, it will be a balm to all of us to understand that the pandemic brought stress and sorrow to everyone. It will help us to remember that we have all been strong and, maybe, it will help us to be kind.

(Note: This is the last verse of the poem Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye:

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

I am finishing with the picture above because it echoes the picture from World Mask Day earlier in this post. These are some of the nurses I work with every day, and they could be in a World Mask Day photo. As the UNICEF website showed me, they look like health care professionals everywhere – and they are some of the kindest people you could ever meet.)

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