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Wellness key during pandemic, says De Silva

Social services agencies will be vital in the aftermath of Covid-19, the new head of Family Centre predicted.

Sandy De Silva, who took over as executive director of the charity this month, said charities and organisations, left with a struggle to survive by the pandemic, could face increased demand as the island returned to normal life.

Dr De Silva said: “The research, all over the world, has shown that this has deeply affected our mental health and often we don't see the ramifications of the effects on our mental health, until after we get through the crisis.

“During the crisis we are in survival mode. Afterwards, when the world seems to be going back to the norm we might not be.

“We might have difficulty sleeping, eating, doing normal things.

“Sometimes we struggle having to go back into the workplace. Children might have more difficulty going back to school or not understand what it means to be safe.”

She added that Family Centre would also see an increase in referrals for its free counselling services, but the pandemic had caused an economic crisis for most charities.

Dr De Silva said: “This pandemic has all of us in the non-profit sector zone in on the economics — what it will take for us to actually survive so we maintain our staff capacity, the high standard of our programmes and services and maintain our connection with our donors, so that they see where their dollars go.

“Given the looming economic impact on the country, for me being able to continue to do what we do today, over the next two to three years and continue to evolve, would be a win.”

She added that the tough times highlighted the need for charities, other agencies and professionals to work together to maximise their impact.

Dr De Silva, a clinical psychologist, said she first became involved with Family Centre when she was still a student.

She said: “I was studying psychology at McGill University in Montreal and my first summer back home I thought I needed to get experience in psychology to open up opportunities.

“I opened up the phone book and I was flipping through the Yellow Pages for helping services and the Family Centre was there — it might have still even been the Family Learning Centre then — and I called.

“Martha Dismont and Peter Carey welcomed me with open arms to work in one of their first summer programmes.”

Dr De Silva said she continued to work with the charity while a student and, after graduation and several years working at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, she returned to Family Centre as director of counselling.

She said: “Having a background in psychology, counselling and social work really puts myself and my colleagues, who have similar backgrounds, in a place of understanding the psychological impact of crisis situations.”

Dr De Silva said trauma could result from several triggers, from abuse to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She said: “This has resulted in some sort of trauma to all of us, and some of us have been able to cope with it a bit better because we had more protective factors — maybe we were able to maintain or job or have a more stable family.

“The Family Centre has also done a lot of work to raise awareness of adverse childhood experiences and there is even a questionnaire — anyone who takes it is likely to tick off at least one experience.

“What we have to look at is the balance of protective factors and risk factors. It's about helping our community to build up its protective factors.”

Dr De Silva added that Family Centre had several events lined up to raise awareness including its annual Cup Match tag day fundraiser, which will be held online this year.

She said: “We have partnered with Sargasso Sea, so you can order Cup Match ribbons on the Sargasso App and vendors have put ribbons up, as an item that can be purchased.

“We want to see which team gets the most purchases and which team wins the people's choice award, which is based on the number of donations.”

The charity will also organise a Mental Health Matters panel series with the Bermuda Broadcasting Company, which will air live on September 14, 21 and 28 from 8pm to 9pm. The charity will also hold a telethon fundraiser, with entertainment and information segments, on the work of Family Centre on September 30

Trauma care: Sandy De Silva, clinical psychologist and new executive director of Family Centre (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published July 28, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated July 28, 2020 at 8:36 am)

Wellness key during pandemic, says De Silva

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