‘Reach out to your neighbors’ — Residents, government, nonprofits rally to offer mutual support
By the numbers
As of April 2
Number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada County: 26
Number in western county: 8
Number in eastern county: 18
Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus
Angela Rule loves volunteering.
Before the crisis hit, the Grass Valley resident was frequently helping out at Sammie’s Nifty Thrift Shop, and was teaching mosaic art at a variety of spots around town.
But without having these routines in her day, Rule had felt herself becoming more isolated due to the recent order. Her anxiety, too, was heightened, as she watched television journalists report the number of COVID-19 cases, and deaths related to the virus, increase on a daily basis.
“I didn’t know what to do with that anxiety,” she said, before realizing, “I can’t live like this, it’s not good for me, it’s not good for my family.”
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Rule looked to her garden of camellias outside her home, and thought: how can I help others?
On Sunday, she began putting her plants in a pot labeled “take me” outside her home. The pots, distanced by six feet, were adjacent to the sidewalk for passerby and her neighbors to keep. The following day, all the flowers had been taken.
Rule felt so good about sharing with others, and giving herself a new routine and purpose, she repeated the beat: doing the same thing on Wednesday. Outside her window, she said she could hear honks and affirming statements from passersby.
“Even those little things just kept me positive,” she said. “You got to keep your spirit moving through.”
According to the 2018 book Lost Connections, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts are often a product of social isolation and disconnection from community, rather than biological factors alone. The best way to resolve those issues, the author suggests, is to work on projects collectively, and partake in service, often allowing people who offer their time to report that they’ve gained more than they’ve given.
That message resonated deeply with Rule, who, despite being forced to stay inside, is still doing art projects and various activities for others.
“I really get paid back tenfold by volunteering,” she said.
Despite a policy of physical distancing having been enacted on the state and local population, a number of opportunities to volunteer have begun availing themselves.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom launched the “Stay Home. Save Lives. Check-In.” program encouraging Californians to call and text others or to “physically distanced door knock” to ensure that everyone, particularly the elderly, are safe, healthy and have enough food to eat. The governor’s office has also partnered with nonprofits in the 2-1-1 system to help older Californians access groceries and medications while staying home.
Grass Valley’s Connecting Point is one of those hubs, offering a number of ways for people to receive services and volunteer their help.
The nonprofit’s executive director Ann Guerra said the agency has received many calls regarding testing for COVID-19, and about issues related to renting.
But the most important thing those working at Connecting Point can offer, said Guerra, is to listen to others.
“In a way, I feel like just by handling those calls, we’re lowering the stress level in the community,” she said.
Sierra Community House, a holistic social services nonprofit based in Truckee and the state of Nevada, has seen its received calls rise 25% since the shelter-in-place order was made, according to Karlah Ramírez-Tánori, the nonprofit’s director of crisis intervention and prevention.
The increase in calls, particularly related to situations of domestic abuse, is not unique to Community House. As the economy begins to sink, stressors related to income deprivation and poverty can be triggers for abusive episodes, according to The Nation. “Angry, bored, and isolated men are more likely to vent their frustrations on the most proximate target, which is often their female partner,” the article states.
Violent relationships, which rest on control and power, said Ramírez-Tánori, are now even more challenging for the victim because those individuals have less ability to find shelter elsewhere and possibly less access to communicate with friends and family members.
Grass Valley’s Community Beyond Violence Executive Director Stephanie Fischer agreed.
“It’s a lot easier for an abuser to control their victims,” she said.
Community House has been trying to help people, frequently women but also the LGBTQ community and immigrants, identify safe places, take breaks by walking outside and find safe spaces within their homes. If situations rise to physical violence and abuse, the authorities can also still be contacted, said Ramírez-Tánori.
Frequently, the Community House director said just listening to people can be most impactful.
“Sometimes listening helps others come up with their own workarounds and solutions,” she said, noting the same is true when coming from friends and family members. “Just a connection to someone else is really important.”
Fischer agreed, noting that people can help by contacting those nearest them.
“Reach out to your neighbors, reach out to your friends, and ask them how they’re doing,” she said, which can be particularly helpful for those with depression, where isolation can significantly compound the problem.
“Isolation is a trigger and it makes things harder,” she said.
From a mental health perspective, one of the most challenging aspects for people is what can’t be controlled, which is an acute problem during the pandemic, said Nevada County Behavioral Health Director Phebe Bell.
“Probably one of the hardest parts is there’s so much unknown for us,” she said.
Bell suggested that people should exercise, eat and sleep well.
Notably, she said, while residents should be physically distancing, this is not a time to socially isolate. Rather, people should safely connect with friends, family and neighbors.
“I’d really stress staying connected,” she said. “Do not let this physical isolation become emotional and social isolation.”
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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