Rebuilding through connection

Jon Sutton with another report from BPS Conference 2021.

In a symposium from the Crisis, Disaster and Trauma Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society, Christina Buxton reminded us that the UK Risk Register has for many years highlighted the risks for pandemics, yet their psychological impact is still not well understood. Rapid reviews from her and Dr Sarita Robinson (University of Central Lancashire), on the return to the workplace and to public transport respectively, highlighted the importance of perception rather than actual risk. ‘Time is a great healer’, Robinson said: ‘Over time we should see a return to public transport use, but we need to speed that up with accurate communication over levels of risk.’ We should also build on new behaviours, such as the intention to walk and cycle more. In terms of the workplace, Buxton showed that workers with a sense of duty, moral obligation and worth are more likely to come to work. But when there is limited trust in the organisation, any prior, or subsequent, training and information would be unlikely to increase willingness to come to work, or to decrease the perceived risk.

Turning the focus to children, Dr Siobhan Currie referred to survey results showing that 67 per cent of young people stated they found their wellbeing in lockdown to be ok, better or much better, with 33 per cent worse or much worse. 87 per cent were looking forward to socialising with peers, which resonates with a lot of research in crisis and disaster on the importance of social connection in recovery. The idea of ‘catch up’ should not just academic, Currie reminded us. She also struck a positive note in suggesting there may have been a reduction in the stigma of seeking help through, for example, peer support groups. 

The importance of others was echoed by Kay Bridger (Nottingham Trent), using a social identity approach to explain variation in outcomes following trauma. In semi-structured interviews and focus groups on returning to work after injury, the key threat of changed functional capacity was appraised through its impact on social identities – work, social connection, and family. ‘The value of work is expressed in terms of social identity resources: our sense of purpose and social connection.’

-       Catch up with BPS Conference 2021. Get access to talks from some of the greatest thinkers in psychology including 5 keynote presentations, 3 student stream talks and 3 symposia. Register for £50 – watch anytime in July. 

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber