In September 2018, the ABC’s hit documentary series Australian Story tracked ...
With COVID-19 related disruption still impacting our lives, we sat down with resident Head Psychologist at LIBERTY Galați, Bogdan Catalin Sofrone to talk about his role, how COVID-19 is impacting people at his site, his advice for managing emotional health, and how we can support each other.
Tell us about your role?
As the Head Psychologist at LIBERTY Galati, my role covers a variety of work including psychological skills evaluation, assessment to check people’s suitability for different roles and activities in the organisation, and coaching and counselling people to help with professional and personal problems, noting that these are not separate!
We also conduct research on stress levels and main stressors to find stress management solutions and improve the organisational culture, research risk-taking predisposition to help leaders to anticipate risky behaviours and find solutions to prevent work accidents, we organise workshops on work / life balance, stress management, health psychology, conflict psychology and other relevant topics for participants.
What are some of the main issues people struggle with at your site?
It depends on the case. Sometimes we meet people with a high level of frustration in their personal or professional life, people affected by major changes in their lives, and other times we see people with major emotional issues, people who are affected by the loss of a loved one, and work to treat them in collaboration with psychiatrists, or we see people struggling with early forms of problems such as stress, anxiety or depression – people who are looking for answers to balance their emotional and professional lives
Have you seen these issues change because of Coronavirus? Are more people coming in?
Surprisingly no, there’s been no recordable change for us. I even conducted some research into this in collaboration with a local university and we found no significant change. Also, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, two phone numbers have been assigned for employees to call in for help if they feel more worried, depressed, or vulnerable as a result of negative information about the Covid 19 epidemic, self-isolation, work in the absence of colleagues, and fear related to the evolution of this situation. However, there was no significant change in the need for assistance. A potential explanation could be that people don’t feel they can come forward and be honest when they are struggling. Many are unaware or do not admit to how much their personal or work problems and the context of the Coronavirus pandemic affects their emotional balance. They try to handle these states on their own and prefer to hide the fact that they are struggling.
What are the signs you look for to see if someone is struggling?
As a psychologist, we constantly monitor the mental state of employees based on annual psychological assessments. Any fluctuation or change in emotional states and the ability to concentrate are indications of disturbed emotional balance and the fact that the person is struggling. Also, we can easily recognize the states of sadness, worry, impatience, haste, impulsivity or aggression, … Based on these signs and the fact that the person is struggling, we can start a discussion.
Do you have any tips on how your everyday person can help someone who is struggling?
The main thing I would point out is that no solutions or advice should be offered, because if the cause of the problem and how a person is affected is not well understood, the advice could be wrong and can cause more harm. Instead, it’s important to connect with that person, listen to them, feel that they are not alone and can rely on you, and then direct them to a specialist. A psychologist can help them open up, understand the cause of problems and find the best solutions to overcome them and find emotional balance.
How do you reach someone who is resistant to talking about mental health?
It often happens that people are reluctant to talk about their problems. If there are signs that would indicate disturbances in emotional balance, we initiate a general discussion about stress, decreased nervous energy, sadness, apathy, anxiety … how these can evolve and can affect quality of life and health mental. Then we give them the freedom and time to be aware of the situation they are in, how their mental and emotional balance are affected, and especially that they can be helped. In the meantime, we notice the changes in the way they are behaving and the reactions they have on the topics of the discussion. This lowers some barriers and opens the conversation in which the specific problems they face can be discussed.
Do you have any guidance on how I can look after myself?
Usually, I avoid giving general guidance because we are all different, unique, react differently, and are affected by problems differently. General guidelines risk being misunderstood and adopted as generally valid solutions in any situation. That’s why I prefer to treat each person with the specific problems they have individually. However, I would recommend that everyone take as much time as possible to analyse what they feel and how they feel, what the body’s needs are, to pay attention to diet, sleep, exercise and last but not least to foster connection and contact with others (stay in touch with others). And when you feel that they can’t manage these situations, don’t hesitate to ask for help. This has become even more important with the context of the Coronavirus pandemic – working from home, quarantined or isolated, social restrictions and anxiety caused by the threat of the virus. That is why it is important to stay connected and open with each other.