COVID-19, quarentine and the effects on entrepreneurs’ mental health

The measures taken to prevent the infection of COVID-19 within Salvadoran populations have been implemented since March, and have gradually caused the majority of business activities to remain on standby. When the entrepreneurs start with the Women’s Empowerment Project we work with the message that they take ownership of their role as an entrepreneur and see their business as their own job. However, since being at home to protect themselves from and their families from COVID-19, it has been difficult for our entrepreneurs to continue embodying this message.

While personal attitude and being adaptable play a role in managing the situation, it has not been easy for everyone. The reality is that many things have become uncertain and a lot is out of individual’s control. 

Some of the main concerns among program participants have been contracting the virus, being contagious to family members, fearing that relatives living elsewhere could catch the virus, lacking income to get food, dealing with the ways in which authorities have enforced the measures in communities, and knowing what the future will look like for themselves, their families and their businesses. Furthermore, some participants have had to deal with difficulties at home, many of which existed before lockdown and have worsened since its onset, such as economic and psychological violence. 

Their bodies haven’t been immune to the feelings of worry, sadness and frustration that they have experienced during the lockdown. Difficulties being able to sleep at night, headaches and digestive disorders have been some of the corporal responses that participants have had.

The general sense of boredom and desperation has also been present. Daily routines have been affected while many have had to stop or reduce the rhythm of the pace that they are used to going to on a daily basis when fulfilling their multiple roles as grandmothers, mothers, daughters, wives and entrepreneurs, to mention just a few. 

Some roles have been overburdened, as in the case of the entrepreneurs that have children at home. Since March, classes have been suspended and at first, put online using virtual platforms. Weeks later it was decided that TV programming would be used to implement classes. Now program participants have had to take time to support their children and grandchildren in preparing school assignments and monitoring class participation, as traditional school is still not happening.

Concerns regarding school have become shared among mothers, grandmothers and children due to the amount of homework, the reduced access to printing services, the inability to buy school supplies and not being able to properly tune into classes due to lack of access to a TV, television signal or access to internet services.

Others have had to rethink their business plans and activities and adapt, producing and marketing different products from what they are used to in order to be responsive, despite the continued limitations quarantine has brought to their business. 

On the other hand, it has been challenging for the Programa Velasco team to continue providing mental health services to clients. The digital barrier in matters of use and access to technology has become more than real these days. Working from home, we have had to make adaptations in the way that we offer services using instant messages apps such as WhatsApp and phone calls. However, there have been limitations.

For example, many entrepreneurs do not have regular access to the Internet, some have poor telephone signal reception, cell phones that do not run properly and others without a cellphone at all.

We have been making adaptations to be able to continue offering these services, taking into consideration the entrepreneur’s conditions, the best channels to stay in touch and each participant’s unique time availability. In this way, we have been able to provide almost total coverage for each participant. Participants who were not in psychological care before quarantine, have been provided psychosocial support through weekly or biweekly calls. It is up to them to decide how often these spaces are made. 

The needs of the entrepreneurs and their families throughout this time are multiple. However, we have seen them during lockdown and each one of them has sought to adapt to the situation, in some way or another. But the quarantine is not over and it is unclear when activities and businesses will be allowed to resume. Programa Velasco proposes a mental health approach that seeks to support participants in the collective mourning that we, as a society, have endured throughout these months, integrate the entrepreneurs’ experiences of being at home and coping with the lockdown, and bring significance from a resilient standpoint to these cumulative experiences. 

The recovery stage, which is supported by our services, will be essential for all entrepreneurs and we cannot do it without your help. Help ensure that entrepreneurs can continue to access mental health services by making of any amount on Wednesday, July 15 at our annual Giving Day. 

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