United Church of Christ

Health and Wholeness in the Midst of COVID-19

Trees_in_a_field.jpgA Compilation of Ministry Care and Support Resources

  1. How COVID-19 May Impact People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of a Drug Overdose
  2. Tips for People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of Overdose
  3. Pastoral Considerations with People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of Overdose
  4. Resources for People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of a Drug Overdose
  5. How COVID-19 May Impact Mental Health and Wellness
  6. Tips for Mental Health and Wellness
  7. Pastoral Considerations for Mental Health and Wellness
  8. Resources for Mental Health and Wellness
  9. How COVID-19 Might Impact People with Disabilities
  10. Resources for People with Disabilities
  11. Tips to keep relationships health while sheltering in place
  12. Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors and Service Providers
  13. Prayers for Health and Wholeness

Also see:


1.  How COVID-19 May Impact People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of a Drug Overdose

  • Limited access to harm reduction supplies including sterile syringes and other injection supplies, fentanyl test strips, and naloxone.
  • Challenges accessing drug treatment resources including mutual aid and self-help groups, medication as treatment including methadone, buprenorphine, naltrexone, etc.
  • Increased stigmatization of people who use drugs contributing to increased isolation, shame, risk-taking, reluctance to seek treatment and support, negative perceptions and violence against people who use drugs.
  • Higher levels of stress may cause changes in substance use patterns, access to support systems and services, and the availability of drugs and alcohol.
  • Increased risk of overdose and overdose death due to social distancing, isolation, using alone, changes in known drug supply, and fear of responding to an overdose due to COVID-19 exposure. Note: when responding to an overdose, use breathing shields/barriers, gloves if you have them, if not, wash hands thoroughly afterwards, etc. Using a breathing shield/mask is a good strategy for preventing transmission of any virus, including COVID19.

 2.  Tips for People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of Overdose

  • Use harm reduction strategies to prevent overdose such as: use less; use slow; try not to use alone; have someone check on you; use fentanyl test strips; have a lot of naloxone/Narcan and know how to use it
  • Practice safer drug use including minimizing the need to share supplies, minimizing contact with others, and preparing your drugs yourself.
  • Prepare for a shortage and stock up on supplies, drugs, and medication, if possible.
  • Develop a safety plan in case of overdose anticipating slower than average responses from 911. Have ample naloxone available. If you are using alone, consider using online/phone-based services such as Never Alone Project who can summon assistance in case of OD. If you are using with others, stagger use if possible. Store a breathing mask in case rescue breathing is necessary

3.  Pastoral Considerations with People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of Overdose

  • Uplift the humanity of people who use drugs by including their voices and experiences in all facets of liturgy/church life. Provide space for people impacted by substance use to tell their stories.
  • Familiarize yourself with harm reduction resources, barriers to care, and drug policy/laws impacting people who use drugs in your city/state.
  • Using person-affirming and non-stigmatizing language when talking about substance use and the people who use them.
  • Include explicit mention of drug related stigma, incarceration, overdose, substance use/misuse/disorder, harm reduction, and recovery in sermons, prayers, benedictions, etc.
  • Acknowledge primary/vicarious trauma and complicated grief experienced by people who use drugs and their loved ones, especially in light of the current overdose crisis.
  • Solicit donations of and for harm reduction supplies, naloxone, and financial support for people who use drugs.
  • Connect with your local union of people who use drugs to see how you can provide support during this time.
  • Provide opportunities to ritualize the experiences of people who use drugs such as naming ceremonies for lives lost to overdose.
  • Make space/list meeting times for a variety of support programs including AA/NA/CA etc. including Harm Reduction Works, MARA, SMART Recovery, etc.

4.  Resources for People Who Use Drugs and People at Risk of a Drug Overdose

https://harmreduction.org/miscellaneous/covid-19-guidance-for-people-who-use-drugs-and-harm-reduction-programs/

Find a harm reduction program near you

Contact the Never Use Alone Project

Contact the National Union of People Who Use Drugs

Find naloxone near you:

Find a drug treatment provider near you:

Find harm reduction spiritual and liturgical resources

Stigma-reducing language guide

Create prayer blankets and naloxone/safer injection supplies storage bags

Connect with UCC’s Overdose and Drug Use Ministries:


5.  How COVID-19 May Impact Mental Health and Wellness

  • Common reactions to a global pandemic such as:
    • Fear and worry about personal health status and that of loved ones, including exposure to COVID 19
    • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Worsening of chronic health problems
    • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
  • Increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions from
    • Isolation,
    • Disruption in work and school schedules/loss of routine,
    • Financial stressors,
    • Changes in physical health, and
    • Inability to access familiar support people and systems.
  • Some people may be at higher risk of mental health challenges including
    • People with preexisting mental health conditions,
    • People with substance use disorders,
    • Children, and
    • First responders such as doctors and healthcare workers.

6.  Tips for Mental Health and Wellness

  • Practice Self-Care:
    • Share your feelings and your experiences with family, friends, colleagues.
    • Practice breathing and relaxation techniques.
    • Limit screen time to no more than 60 minutes at a time, building in mini-breaks throughout your day. It is okay to stick to boundaries and say “no.”
    • Avoid or limit caffeine and use of alcohol.
    • Remind yourself that it is not selfish to take breaks.
    • The needs of others are not more important than your needs. Working all the time can cause harm. Turn to others to help. You are not alone.
    • We are in this for the long haul and making these steps to stay well will have long-term benefits.
    • Know that you are making a difference and your life matters.
    • Be consistent with medications including ensuring that you have access to prescribed medications (get a 90 day supply if possible),
    • Limit media exposure to COVID 19,
    • Meditate, pray, maintain a sense of hope and positivity that God is with us, ask for help if you are feeling overwhelmed
  • Practice Community-Care
    • Reach out and connect to another person to provide support.
    • Through regular check-ins (phone calls, text, Zoom, FB video, Skype), you can carry the burden of care together.
    • Monitor one another’s stress level and safety.
    • Encourage each other to take breaks and share opportunities for stress relief.
    • Encourage rest, sleep, exercise and deep breathing.
    • Be honest and authentic.
  • Support children and other people at heightened risk of impact
    • Take time to talk with your child about the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child can understand.
    • Reassure your child that they are safe. Let them know if is ok if they feel upset.
    • Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
    • Limit your child’s exposure to media coverage of the event.
    • Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
    • Help your child to have a sense of structure.
    • Once it is safe to return to school or child care, help them return to their regular activity.
    • Be a role model; take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well.
    • Connect with your friends and family members and rely on your social support system..”
  • Recognize and know the symptoms of vicarious and secondary trauma
    • Acknowledge that STS can impact anyone helping families after a traumatic event.
    • Learn the symptoms including physical (fatigue, illness) and mental (fear, withdrawal, guilt).
    • Allow time for you and your family to recover from responding to the outbreak.
    • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for your family and patients as you did before the outbreak.

7.  Pastoral Considerations for Mental Health and Wellness

  • Make sure the prayers in worship include mention of this virus and are coupled with the conviction that God does not abandon anyone but is present. Your own words in your church's newsletter can bring comfort and solace which might reduce the heightened anxiety these days.
  • A faith community which is already alert about the mental health challenges of some of their members can reach out to these individuals with assurance and presence. Imagine ways that you can overcome the growing isolation that is part of containing the spread of the virus.  Perhaps you can name a couple of people in your congregation who can help those who are technology-challenged to use available technology so as to keep some connections happening or even be increased.
  • Your church may have a mental health ministry which can reach out to local resource persons to provide adult education about anxiety and OCD along with other mental health challenges which might be triggered by the outbreak of the conoravirus. If there is no such ministry at this time, you may consider forming one in the future.  That could include hosting a Mental Health First Aid educational program or use your local NAMI organization.  You can also google such helpful websites as nami.org to find some concrete resources and guidance.
  • The uncertainty in the weeks and months ahead will lead some of us if not most of us to spend a lot more alone ourselves. This might be an invitation for some time for introspective enriching.  It might include finding those favorite daily posts for spiritual/religious readings or poems.  Contemplative prayer time, or simple breathing practices, or slow walks outside or in nature can all be ways to restore the balance that we all need.

8.  Resources for Mental Health and Wellness

United Church of Christ Mental Health Network: http://mhn-ucc.blogspot.com/

Centers for Disease Control and Health and Human Services

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Association for Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-8255


9.  How COVID-19 Might Impact People with Disabilities

  • The people most often cited as being at serious risk are largely, by some definition, people with disabilities.
  • It can be harder for disabled people to take prudent steps to protect themselves from the coronavirus outbreak.
  • COVID-19 coronavirus threatens not only disabled people’s health, but their independence.
  • This outbreak has the potential to add new perspectives and urgency to a number of long-time disability issues.
  • You can help a lot just being aware and sensitive to the specific risks and obstacles faced by disabled people in an outbreak of contagious illness like COVID-19.

10. Resources for People with Disabilities

United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries: http://uccdm.org/

https://afirm.fpg.unc.edu/supporting-individuals-autism-through-uncertain-times

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewpulrang/2020/03/08/5-things-to-know-about-coronavirus-and-people-with-disabilities/#2317ea5b1d21


11.  Tips to keep relationships healthy while sheltering in place

  • Take care of yourself. If you are well-cared for, you will be a better partner, parent, sibling, caregiver, roommate, etc
  • Turn off the media. While keeping informed can be helpful, too much media consumption can create emotional distance in relationships.
  • Communicate ways you’d like to receive safe, nurturing touch. If you live alone, consider bubble baths, fuzzy blankets, or using a muscle roller massage stick or back scratcher for sensation on your skin.
  • Take turns deciding which game to play, movie to watch, route to take on your walk, what to bake, etc.
  • Share love in as many ways as you can. Tell the people you love that you do. Loving increases love in the world!
  • Find ways to have alone time. Some people need more than others.
  • Institute a daily spiritual practice or quiet time for reflection and rest.
  • Use online meeting platforms such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts to connect with loved ones on a regular basis.
  • Take time for honest check-ins about how you are feeling. 
  • Focus on gratitude daily. For what are you grateful in your partner/child/parent/roommate?

12. Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors and Service Providers

Sources: 

How COVID-19 May Impact People Who Are Survivors of Domestic Abuse

  • Stress may increase instances of physical and emotional violence during isolation
  • Shelter in place restrictions may make getting away from an abuser safely even more difficult
  • Abusers may withhold necessary items, such as disinfectants or insurance cards 
  • Escape plans of survivors may be impacted by travel restrictions
  • Shelters may be full or have stopped intakes during this time

Tips for Domestic Violence Survivors and Those Who Love Them

  • Create a safety plan
    resources: ”Path to Safety“ and “Interactive guide to safety planning
  • Because shelter availability may be limited right now, consider if there are family and friends with whom you can stay, or if you can take shelter in a hotel or in your vehicle.
  • Let trusted friends and family members know of your situation.
  • Decide on several credible reasons you may need to leave your home during the day or at night.
  • Identify the most safe places in your home (no weapons and a way to escape).
  • Teach your children how to get help and to not interfere in violence between you and your partner.
  • Practice self-care as much as possible.
    For ideas see: “The Importance of Self-Care”.
  • Stick to your routines as much as possible.
  • Stay connected to friends and family via phone or online if you are able.

Pastoral Considerations with Domestic Violence Survivors

  • Familiarize yourself with local, state and national resources for survivors, and know whether or not shelters in your area are open at this time
  • Use non-stigmatizing language when talking about people who have been abused (“survivor” instead of “victim” and “person living with an abuser” instead of “abused woman/child/person”).
  • Include explicit mention of survivors of domestic violence in your prayers.
  • Check in regularly on those for whom you are concerned. This can be a lifeline to safety and sanity for many who are sheltering in place with an abusive person.
  • Care for yourself.  Providing spiritual care for folks in these situations can be stressful, especially when regularly available resources are limited or closed.

Resources for Survivors of Domestic Abuse


13. Prayers for Health and Wholeness

For Pastors:
God of Love, help. I am trying my best to pastor my people right now and it is hard. Help me know what is within my control and what is within my power. Grant me wisdom. Thank you for the reminder that I am not alone because you are with me. Your Spirit guides and comforts me. Thank you for the reminder that in you we have abundant life. Grant me rest for my weary soul. Grant us hope for tomorrow. Amen.

For Chaplains:
God of Love, help. I am trying my best to minister to the hurting and hopeless and it is hard. Help me to show compassion to others who are grieving. Grant me strength and courage. Thank you for guiding me with wisdom. Help me to know when to stop and rest. Help me to stay healthy and to care for myself as I care for others. God, show us mercy, peace and grace. Amen.

For Healthcare Professionals:
God of love, thank you for the gift of care. As we come face-to-face with pain and suffering, grant us courage and strength. Help us to provide compassionate care even as we ourselves are in need of compassion. Grant us a sense of serenity and calm in the midst of the storm. Protect us from harm in body, mind and spirit. Bless us with hope for tomorrow. Amen.

For Parents:
God of love, thank you for the blessing of family. We need help now to know how to care for children. Give us the extra strength and courage to do what we need to do to keep our families safe and healthy. As our lives are turned up-side-down, be our source of security and strength. Bless our homes with your Spirit of peace. Help our children know they are deeply loved no matter what. Give us a glimpse of hope for tomorrow. Amen.

For Caregivers:
God of love, be with me as I provide care. I am tired. Grant me strength and courage. Bless me with moments of grace. Help me to feel connected to you, the Source of Life. Help me to take time out and to take breaks for myself. Fill my heart with your Spirit of peace. Grant us all hope for this day. Amen.

For People with Mental Health Challenges:
God of love, this is a scary time. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. Grant me courage and strength. Help me to know of your love for me. Protect all people with mental health challenges from harm in body, mind and spirit. Grant us hope for this day. Amen.

For People with Disabilities:
God of all, thank you for creating us in your divine image. Help us to value our unique gifts as people with disabilities, visible and invisible. Right now is a scary time. Help us all manage our bias and our anxiety as we wait. Protect people with disabilities from harm and help to ensure that we are not overlooked or forgotten. Bless us with your grace and mercy. Amen.

Prayers for People with experience of abuse or violence:
Holy Comforter, we ask for your love to surround those of your people who are experiencing abuse and violence in relationships. Help us all to know that violence is not what you want for any of us. Illumine us with the clarity that no one deserves to be harmed, mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually. In the midst of isolation, help each of your children know they are connected to you and your holy and healing love. Guide us. Empower us. Speak to us with your strength and love today and every day. Amen.

Healing God, we ask for your guidance as we encounter those who are abusive and live with and among us. Reach us all, God, with your wisdom, your strength, and your fortitude. Teach us all, God, ways to connect with one another that does not use physical, mental, emotional or spiritual violence. Give us life-giving words and actions. Help us lead the way and connect those in need with healing. In the strong name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

O God, we cry out to you in our pain! We lament that we have not felt your presence in our wounding, in our attempts to heal, in our desire to move on. Help us to be willing to listen for your voice, asking us how to comfort us. Give us wisdom to discern what is healing to us--not what is best for others or what others say we should do-- but what will truly help us heal. Help us to feel you beside us, in solidarity, as we take whatever next step is right for us. Amen.

Holy Mother God, hear us now! We call on your divine wisdom and your fierce love to protect us and heal us. We gather in solidarity with our siblings and as those who have experienced sexual assault and abuse. We claim your love, your healing, your power empowering us as we move through this world. We claim communities and spaces where we feel safe to be. Strengthen us, Holy Mother God, as we continue to dismantle systems that perpetuate violence. Sustain us when we are weary. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we can create your culture and community in this time and in this place. Amen.