Aside from its economic costs, the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and General Community Quarantine (GCQ) is also taking a toll on the mental health of people.
Angeli Austria, a guidance counselor of BSU confirmed that these reactions are normal. Cabin Fever is characterized by discomfort at home, boredom, irritability, restlessness, and needing to break routine (Rosenblatt, Anderson, & Johnson, 1983).
BSU employees and students are not exempted from this risk so to address this, the University Human Resource Development Office (HRDO) and the OSS- Guidance and Counseling Unit launched their programs “Alwad ken Aywan ti Kabsat” and “Tumulong Ken Tumarabay Kenyam Kabsat” respectively.
The onset of Cabin Fever
The students related various kinds of worries they had at the start of the quarantine such as how they will replenish their supplies, their individual and their family’s safety, the plight of those who are sick with COVID-19, and concerns on possible cut-off of city services. Some students also noticed a change in their temper. Likewise, the HRDO reported that some responses in their Aywan Kapanunutan module reflected feelings of sadness, boredom and anxiety. Most are stressed with the sudden changes and having to adapt to these.
“Cabin Fever is normal especially when a person has stayed inside the house for a long time and has been deprived of social interaction and physical mobility. The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) is the first time in the experiences of these students and it is likely that they manifest these reactions like any other person who have been used to doing their everyday routines in a highly physical and social setup,” said Austria.
Actions by BSU offices to protect students and employees
Aside from keeping their communication lines open, the BSU-OSS-Guidance and Counseling Unit launched a poetry writing contest and an audio-visual competition at the start of the ECQ to reach out to students. The winners received cellphone loads as prices. The winning entries were also shared to selected hospitals as a tribute to frontliners. All the entries were compiled in a literary folio.
On the other hand, the HRDO program “Alwad ken Aywan ti Kapsat” is a two-pronged program that provides: mitigation measures on how an individual can stay safe and healthy holistically (Panag-alwad); and various essentials through donation drives and existing or newly crafted policies and programs (Panag-aywan). The program also involved the University Health Services (UHS) and the University Library and Information Services (ULIS).
Other activities included: a donation and Adopt-a-student drive; assistance to BSU students are in immediate need of medicines; relief drive for University Job Order and Contract of Service (JO/COS) Personnel; and provision of modules that provides some relevant knowledge on cabin fever and some activities which may help in avoiding or in coping with its effects.
To help implement the ECQ, alternative work arrangements were adopted. As civil servants, the University also set up a skeleton workforce to ensure the continuity of vital services and provision of assistance to the community in this time of need. This is how even with the ECQ, employees continued to receive their salaries.
In support to national and local efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19, the University Health Services personnel also volunteered at the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) to check temperatures of the people. Sanitation booths and health gears were also distributed at the University Administration Building and medical check-ups are also provided based on the availability of BSU Medical Clinic personnel.
Employees and students’ resilient mind and gratitude helped cope with Cabin fever
BSU students and employees dealt with their anxieties by keeping a strong mind, being productive and by being grateful. Some of the stranded students interviewed acknowledged the kindness of donors in helping them survive. For instance, Christwarren admitted that he relied on relief packs for three weeks until he was able to go home to Tuba. Meanwhile Marifel, a BA Communication student, attested to the importance of having a strong mind not only in enduring the ECQ but to whatever life may bring.
“COVID-19 pandemic is a test of faith for everyone-- from the youngest to the oldest, poorest to the richest and weakest to the strongest. Yes, it is very alarming since the case rates are drastically rising in every part of the world as well as it is deadly. However, this should not make us panic, let us always remember that behind this pandemic is a Father that protects us as long as we call unto His name and keep our faith burning,” shared Leo, a freshman.
Ramon, an employee, appreciated that he is paid despite the Work From Home Arrangement. “Sana, we continue the kind of trust and confidence between employees and employers kahit wala ng ECQ,” he said. In order to cope, Ramon shared that he maintained a routine by logging in at his virtual office before 8:30 am and discussing with his colleagues then taking his breaks. For Joan, another employee who felt down after seeing news about COVID-19 avoided watching TV and just relied on LGU pages to be updated on straight facts only.
Shanerise, a BSND student, thinks the COVID-19 pandemic is a re-start button, a thought that resonates among the other students interviewed. They mentioned the environment, world peace and order, spiritual health, leadership and family ties as those that are re-starting. They also shared their changed views of things ranging from the profound to the mundane such as being able to study within the premises of the University, agriculture, health, the economy, employment and politics.
Most of all, they also took advantage of the ECQ to ‘re-start’ their skills, hobbies and knowledge. JM of the College of Agriculture actually welcomed school requirements because it distracted him from his worries. Jezrelle of the College of Arts and Sciences found the time to do volunteer job in her barangay by organizing her schedule thoroughly. The rest started learning new hobbies.//JSTabangcura
***Thirteen students and two employees were interviewed for the purpose of this story. The answers of the 18 people which included five employees who accessed the Aywan Kapanunutan module of the HRDO are also integrated here.