More than 100 callers experiencing relationship problems due to social restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have reached out to the Irish Catholic Church’s Accord relationship counselling service.
It comes after Accord launched a confidential ‘Relationships Support Phone Line’, providing the Irish public with a free counselling service.
Accord revealed over one hundred callers had made contact using the three Accord numbers which serve the island – Accord CLG: 01 531 333; Accord Dublin: 01 905 9555; and Accord NI: 028 9568 0151 or 00353 1 531 3331.
Calls to Accord counsellors typically last 45 to 60 minutes in duration and are charged at a local rate.
Among the main problems callers have reported to Accord are clashes with other family members due to poor communication; regret at being unable to grieve properly following the death of a loved one; pressure and stress caused by uncertainty around security of employment; and the effect on domestic finances.
Mental health was also reported as being a big problem, as was pressure on students arising from changes in exam timetables; challenges associated with having home life converted to an office and a school; and the emotional impact of constant negative news reporting.
Accord counsellors noted that people under stress at home can feel that they are living in a ‘pressure cooker’ environment. This situation can induce a regression in behaviour and human interaction suffers, they said. In such an environment, people can overreact to situations which in turn can cause the domestic atmosphere to deteriorate and this type of behaviour can present as either uncomfortable silences and/or very loud, explosive and noisy verbal exchanges, the counsellors said.
Meanwhile, Young people and children exposed to aggressive behaviour – whether a one off or on an ongoing basis – experience fear and distress which in turn affects their personal behaviour and relationships with others, they warned, noting that physical isolation at home can compound trauma.
The counsellors also pointed out that couples whose relationships had been under pressure prior to imposition of the Covid-19 restrictions are particularly at risk as their confinement exacerbates existing unresolved relationship issues. They noted that being compelled to remain at home all the time, together, save for essential journeys, is magnifying existing tensions and problems.
Accord counsellors offer the following key tips to people at home at this time:
– For individuals living in fear at home, Accord counsellors are trained in identify and handling domestic abuse. In such situations the priority is the safety of the fearful person and their children. Accord can support an individual to develop a safety plan and can advise them of specialist crisis support contact numbers.
– In general, try and keep the lines of communication open with your spouse/partner
– Be conscious of how you raise issues with your partner. There are productive ways and unproductive ways of raising issues.
– Talk from your own feelings first and express what is difficult for you and what you feel you need rather than blaming and being critical of your partner. Criticism usually begets defensive, stonewalling or disproportionate responses.
– Be willing to look at yourself and your behaviour in addition to your partner’s shortcomings. ‘What is it like to be in relationship and to live with me?’ is a good question to ask ourselves.
– Self-management is a very good skill to hone in these pressurised and worrying times. It might be better to raise an issue at another time so that your partner can hear the cause of concern in a calmer context and to avoid an experience of perceived criticism or attack.
Insofar as issues such as bereavement or serious illness impact the couple relationship, Accord said callers can discuss these issues with a counsellor on the Support Line. If the issue is about a specific personal bereavement and/or health issue, then referral to a specialist may be required.
If the issue relates to how the household finances are being managed or mismanaged that may be discussed by the caller. However, Accord does not offer financial advice so counsellors offer relevant details of national support services which address personal finance problems.
To find out more see: https://www.accord.ie
Picture: A couple involved in a disagreement (Con Tanasiuk/Design Pics via ZUMA Wire).