“Social workers are incredibly important during this time. People, now more than ever, are looking to social programs to help get through this pandemic.”
The World Health Organization reports that COVID-19 has infected more than 1.1 million people in the United States and killed over 61,000 others. More than 55 million students in grades K through 12 have transitioned to learning from home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to a tally maintained by Education Week, and at least 30 million people have filed for unemployment since the pandemic began to destroy the job market in mid-March.
COVID-19 has forced Suarez-Friedman to work online. When she’s not overseeing the mutual aid program, she’s providing teletherapy to more than half a dozen adolescents who tell her that they wish they could return to school.
Suarez-Friedman advises her clients to find activities that they can enjoy at home, whether that’s playing video games, watching Netflix, or taking hot showers. When one client told Suarez-Friedman that exercise improved her mood, Suarez-Friedman showed her a video that highlighted the mental health benefits of moving your body.
“We talk about what they’re missing and discuss the positive things they’re able to do now,” says Suarez-Friedman, who plans to graduate in two weeks and then return to Wayside Youth and Family Support Network to work full time. “I’m there for them and let them talk about what’s difficult.”
Lizzie Fipphen, a first-year student who counsels children who attend the Parker Elementary School in Billerica, Massachusetts, uses Google Meet to play games, read books, and assuage the fears of her clients.
When one child worried that his family would catch the coronavirus, Fipphen provided strategies to minimize the risk of contracting the disease.
“I said that was a very valid worry and all we can do is protect ourselves the best we can,” says Fipphen, who specializes in children, youth, and families. “If you go outside, be careful,” she told the child, “and encourage your mom to wear a mask in the grocery store.”