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Circuit breaker hasn’t been the easiest for many of us. While there are people who enjoy the time of fellowship and bonding with their warm and loving families, there is also a significant number of us who might find this Circuit Breaker an extremely difficult period. Indeed, not all Singaporeans share the same privilege of having a home to return to, or family members to spend Circuit Breaker with. Perhaps, some of us might have a home to return to, but we find ourselves cooped up in the room all day, because we dread interactions at home. Hence, this article seeks to provide some sort of comfort for individuals who feel like staying at home is the toughest thing this Circuit Breaker, simply because home doesn’t feel like home.

Firstly, while there are some tips and advices throughout this article, the aim of this article isn’t to create comparisons or trivialize the different experiences people might have, but simply to acknowledge that each person’s experience differs.

While staying at home has become a common saying, people are also starting to realize that having a roof over your head is a basic need that not everyone in Singapore has. Under these circumstances, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of need, physiological needs such as water, food, shelter and sleep, as well as the need for love and belonging are both threatened. According to Mr Koh, one of the hundreds of individuals who have been taken in by a shelter, he reported having suicidal ideation when he was sleeping rough.

I was hungry and had no place to sleep. When you’re hungry, you have strange thoughts.

As COVID-19 spreads, homeless people in Singapore are among the most vulnerable to be infected during this Circuit Breaker (Liu, 2020). Fortunately, COVID-19 has shed light on the needs of the homeless, whereby their lack of shelter has gained a lot of attention for temporary shelters to be set up.

It is imperative for us to realize that COVID-19, together with the Circuit Breaker measures could take a toll on people’s mental health (Sue-Ann, 2020). According to Dr Jessie Chua, a senior clinical psychologist explained that:

Many, especially those taking major examinations, are facing extreme stress and anxiety, particularly due to the uncertainty they are constantly facing.

How to deal with a dysfunctional family

Perhaps, you feel that your family is dysfunctional. You’ve not spoken to a family member for years – you pass each other along the corridors as if strangers living under the same roof. Perhaps you find yourself experiencing increased friction between your family members –never ending conflict, lack of respect for personal boundaries and emotional abuse.

Circuit breaker might seem never-ending, like a daily nightmare even. Here are 3 tips you can try in this month, that may make staying at home a little less taxing.

1. Setting Boundaries

With everyone at home, it might be difficult to find to find personal space especially if you don’t have your own room. Setting boundaries will be a good way to communicate what your limits are, to prevent your family members from violating each other’s boundaries in the same way. If you’re a parent, you can learn to set boundaries with your children, by letting them know you’re upset or angry right now and are going to a space in the house to be by yourself. By verbalizing that, you can help your family members understand you need time and space to cool off or be by yourself.

2. Decompress after a stressful interaction or a heated argument

Recognizing and acknowledging your strained relationship with a certain family member can help you prepare for potential stressful interactions with him/her. After a stressful or heated interaction, it is important for you to be able to return to a calm state afterwards. Examples of relaxation techniques can include deep breathing, going for a short walk around your estate, or taking a shower (Applebury, n.d.). Try out these different methods and find out which relaxation technique works best for you.

3. Care for yourself and know your limits.

Everyone’s family is different. Find out what works best for you and be sure to check in with yourself.Perhaps, the best option for you is to end contact with your family members, rather than to stick it out. While you might not have the option to stay outside during this Circuit Breaker, perhaps finding a private corner in your house can be a way to prioritize your mental health.

One of the main reasons home might not feel like home is because you don’t feel safe. (If this is you, or someone you love, be sure to check out some resources at the bottom for this article.) According to social workers in Singapore, the implementation of circuit breaker measures had led to an increase in domestic abuse cases as families are forced to stay at home. Being under the same roof forces victims of domestic abuse to be in close proximity with their abusers. Being constricted by space, being in the same house exposes victims to higher likelihood of abuse.

Moreover, it is increasingly difficult for victims of domestic abuse to seek help since they might not be able to find a safe space to seek help. Physical isolation weakens one’s attempt to seek social support, making it extremely hard for victims to reach out. Other than the fact that one of the most difficult things to do is to get help, it is also difficult for school counsellors to reach out to students at risk of abuse as well (Wong, 2020).

 

If this is you, or someone you know who is at risk of domestic abuse or family violence, here are 3 reminders during these tough times:

1. You are not to be blamed for being mistreated

Do you find yourself making excuses for how your partner acts towards you? Or perhaps your partner has been the one making excuses for how they’ve been treating you and/or your children? Some of these excuses can look like, “I control you because I care about you”, “I was drunk”, “I grew up in a violent home, this is not even bad.”

Blame shifting is one of the most common perpetrators of domestic violence will insist, to put the blame on the victim. Instead it is crucial for you to realise that the abuse is never the fault of the person on the receiving end. While you might blame yourself for being the  straw that broke the camel’s back, it is important for you to remember that abusers always have a choice about their words and actions (Blame Shifting and Minimizing: There’s no EXCUSE for Abuse, 2019)

2. You deserve to live in a safe place, and to be treated with respect

We all deserve to live in a house that is safe and free from violence.

According to Ministry of Social and Family Development, there is sufficient space in crisis shelters to house victims of family violence even during this period of Circuit Breaker (Wong, 2020). If it is difficult to take the step to move out, child protection, adult protection and the police are still available to check in on families. Moreover, crisis shelters and centres such as Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre are one of the centres that strive to ensure children at risk of domestic abuse can continue attending schools.

3. You are not alone

While Circuit Breaker measures have made reaching out difficult, it is crucial to know that you are not alone.

If you find yourself in the position of domestic abuse, of you know of someone who is at risk of domestic abuse, here are some resources that will be able to provide some help. You can call on the following numbers for immediate advice/ help, or to make a report:

  • SOS: writing to pat@sos.org.sg, or calling the 24-hour hotline at 1800-221 4444.
  • PAVE Integrated Services for Individual and Family Protection: 6555 0390
  • TRANS SAFE CAENTRE: 6449 9088
  • Project StART: 6476 1482
  • Big Love Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6445 0400
  • HEART @ Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre: 6819 9170
  • ComCare Call Hotline: 1800-222-0000
  • National CARE Hotline: 1800-202-6868
  • Community Psychology Hub Online Counselling: www.cphonlinecounselling.sg
  • Police (Emergency) – 999/ SMS 71999
  • AWARE Helpline – 1800 777 5555

One day you will wake up and all of a sudden the weight of the last few weeks, months or even years will be lifted off your shoulders. You can’t control when that day comes, all  you can do is stay strong and trust that it is coming
~ Unknown

At the end of the day, the extension of Circuit Breaker might be difficult for us to escape the problems at home. But even when home doesn’t feel like home, remember that you are not alone.

References

Applebury, G. (n.d.). How to Deal With a Dysfunctional Family. Retrieved from https://family.lovetoknow.com/about-family-values/dealing-dysfunctional-family

Blame Shifting and Minimizing: There’s no EXCUSE for Abuse. (2019, April 12). Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/2014/01/15/blame-shifting-and-minimizing-theres-no-excuse-for-abuse/

Liu, V. (2020, April 18). Call for more help as shelters for the homeless hit full capacity during Covid-19 circuit breaker period. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/call-for-more-help-as-shelters-for-the-homeless-hit-full-capacity

Sue-Ann, C. (2020, April 6). Covid-19 could take toll on people’s mental health, say experts. Retrieved from https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/covid-19-could-take-toll-peoples-mental-health-say-experts

Wong, Y. (2020, April 9). Coronavirus: Rise in domestic abuse cases as families forced to stay home. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/coronavirus-rise-in-domestic-abuse-cases-as-families-forced-to-stay-home

Wong, C. (2020, April 13). Sufficient crisis shelter space to house family violence victims during Covid-19 circuit breaker period: MSF. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sufficient-crisis-shelter-space-to-house-family-violence-victims-msf

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