Fiji

Sera Osborne

The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone, among them were the most vulnerable groups who required psycho-social attention, those suffering from depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, anxiety and people living on streets, not much was being done on their behalf.

“When the news broke of COVID 19 in Fiji, emotions were high. People started panicking and this affected our members most of whom have psycho-social impairments, some were even considering suicide”

Sera Osborne is the Project Officer and Office Manager in Psychological Survivors Association (PSA) based in Suva, Fiji. She worked on the ground with the affected people directly by providing food, psychosocial counselling and even raising awareness on COVID-19, she carries out house visits and gives counselling to affected members regardless of time or situation.

During the COVID-19 restrictions, Sera has been supporting psycho-social counselling to the members mostly through telecommunication during odd hours, trying as much to maintain social distance during office hours. However, there was a time, during off hours late at night, when she had to seek assistance from the police to prevent one of the members from committing suicide. She intervened at the right moment with the help of the police to prevent such loss. She emphasized

“We need to realize that people with these impairments deal with situations differently from normal people. They will have to take long walks or even connect with nature and these means of relief were greatly impacted by the restrictions”.

The city went on complete lockdown for 14 days, which badly affected the people living on streets. There were 22 people who required immediate assistance on food and psychological counselling. For the initial three days, Sera cooked and delivered meals to all 22 people living on streets on her own expense, and then consecutively assisted the members from the funds collected from various organizations. She adds

“I forked out money from my pocket to provide nutritious meals for the people living on streets, I did my own research over the internet on COVID and deconstructed it to fit their explanation. I then went out to them and explained what it was and took the hot meals”

Sera with her team members from PSA, visited the vulnerable people with farming equipment and seeds to get them involved with the community activities and to assist members to work together, by ensuring community awareness and reduced stigmatization with psycho-social impairments. The team also provided timely medications and did progressive survey on the members to support them.

Working to support these vulnerable groups during this pandemic has not been easy for Sera and her team. Supporting affected members or patients outside the outer islands has been another challenge, due to the pandemic which resulted in lockdown and restrictions, essential medication and counselling were hampered due to shutdown of transportation, however peer to peer counselling through telecommunication devices were carried out regularly until the restrictions were lifted.

Sera has been working tirelessly with support from her team to address various issues faced by these vulnerable groups.