Using expressive writing techniques to help Covid-19 healthcare workers overcome trauma

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A project developed by a researcher at the Kingston School of Art in London that aims to help people overcome trauma through expressive writing techniques is to be offered to healthcare professionals around the world who are on the front lines of Covid-19 crisis.

The methodology developed by BA (Hons) English Literature and Creative Writing Professor Dr Meg Jensen and Dr Siobhan Campbell, Lecturer in Creative Writing at Open University, has already been used to support military veterans and palliative care workers in the UK and refugees and victims of violence in conflict areas, most recently in Iraq and Lebanon.

Professor Jensen has now received £ 10,000 in funding from a UK-based private company Viaro Energy to make this support available to frontline healthcare workers during and after the Covid-19 pandemic by creating free web access to expressive writing material in English, Italian and Arabic.

Expressive writing is a form of imaginative writing that allows people who have gone through difficult events to express their emotions in a regulated and safe way, allowing them to detach from those experiences by turning them into shareable stories. The process helps people recover and increase their sense of well-being without the pain of reliving the event itself, nor the danger of triggering those who may have undiagnosed traumatic disorders.

The Covid-19 crisis has placed healthcare workers around the world under extreme pressure and the impact on mental health has become increasingly evident, Prof Jensen explained.

Time and time again, we have seen healthcare workers become distraught and, in some cases, traumatized by their day-to-day work experiences. “

Dr Meg Jensen, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing BA (Hons)

One of the main challenges for these healthcare workers was learning to cope with an overwhelming sense of failure, especially at the onset of the pandemic, with so many patients entering hospitals and other healthcare facilities. already crowded.

Healthcare workers, Professor Jensen learned, normally face the pain of losing patients by focusing on the far greater number of lives they have saved. At the height of the crisis, however, these workers faced multiple deaths, often simultaneously, were unable to take well-deserved breaks and faced uncertainty about the best treatments to help the high number of sick and dying people. that they were dealing with. Daily.

These problems were compounded by the relatively unique scenario of being afraid for their own personal safety on a daily basis, continued Professor Jensen. “Workers had to deal with all these problems and treat patients while fearing for their own well-being and that of their immediate families and the elderly, and sometimes lacked the equipment to protect themselves. So the stress continued after they got home. she said.

In response to this growing need, Professor Jensen and Dr Campbell adapted the expressive writing methodology specifically for frontline healthcare workers. The project will also contribute to the growing body of evidence regarding the impact of the crisis on healthcare workers, and will be used to better understand how to support this vital but vulnerable group.

While there is a substantial evidence base for the therapeutic benefits of expressive writing, this is the first time that the methodology has been adapted and applied in a web format. Prof Jensen explained that the expressive writing methodology is ideal for this purpose, as it is an immediate technique that can be used by anyone, without risk.

Program participants perform short, interesting, and descriptive exercises designed to help them express the emotions they are feeling. These can be written or recorded on a phone and submitted anonymously for the research team’s comment, or shared with other users if they wish. By focusing on the imaginative and expressive elements of the storytelling, participants are helped to detach from difficult emotions, helping them move forward with a stronger sense of well-being.

The website, which will be launched next month, also contains information and links to other sources of psychological support for those in need. Professor Jensen said that for many people there is a huge benefit in just sharing their stories. “Often what people need most is the opportunity and the space to share their experiences and feel validated,” she said.


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