Mental Health, Well-Being, and Trauma-Informed Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Mental Health and Well-Being Working Group Feeding America

The COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic event, impacting all people and communities. The stress of this event is exacerbated by the lack of job security and loss of income for millions of Americans. The current crisis may also compound the previous traumas of individuals, which may result in retraumatization (reliving stress reactions experienced as a result of a traumatic event when faced with a new incident). This is particularly relevant in these times, with common feelings of uncertainty, disconnection, change, powerlessness, anxiety, or irritability. A person’s past and current experiences of trauma may result in various responses to these stressors. 

While changes taking place are disrupting the lives of nearly everyone in some way, individuals experiencing food insecurity – numbering more than 37 million (11.5%), including more than 11 million children, in 2018 – will face particular challenges. Due to COVID-19 and the subsequent impacts, the number of people who experience food insecurity is already increasing. Food insecurity by itself contributes to a cycle of stress and chronic disease for many. This is only exacerbated by the difficulties of navigating a world experiencing a health pandemic. In fact, there is a direct correlation between trauma and health conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. 

In addition to the trauma of this historic event, new challenges are added to those working to prevent and address food insecurity in their communities. While chronic stress and burnout are issues that food banks and other organizations have been dealing with long before COVID-19, the increased demand and stress brought on by this crisis highlights the importance of acknowledging the issues, recognizing signs, and understanding the implications of chronic stress and burnout on an organizational and personal level. 

The following resources, developed by Feeding America’s Mental Health and Well-Being Working Group, provide more information on trauma-informed care during COVID-19 and tips for social service providers for preserving their wellness while best serving their communities during this unprecedented time. 

Trauma-Informed Care and Vicarious Trauma: This resource provides an overview of trauma in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and how food banks and pantry staff can apply a trauma-informed care approach to serving their communities.

Chronic Stressors and Burnout: This onepager discusses the risk of chronic stress and burnout for food bank and pantry staff and volunteers and offers tips for taking care of yourself and your team.

Next Steps and Resources: Supporting Mental Health and Well-Being: These next steps and additional resources will help social service providers move forward on the journey of caring for oneselfone’s team, and the people being served.