Transcript – Episode 33: Chat with Daniel Campeau

John Hannaford: Hi, Daniel, it’s John Hannaford calling. How are you?

Daniel Campeau: I’m very good, thank you. And how about you?

John Hannaford: I’m, I’m OK. Thank you. So, this is an opportunity just to have a conversation with Daniel Campeau from our Employee Assistance Program, who has real expertise in mental health issues and can give us a few strategies to be dealing with the extraordinary circumstances that we’re all living through right now. I should just start by saying, are you well, Daniel? How are you and how is your family?

Daniel Campeau: Thank you for asking. I am well, I am well. Last weekend, my quarantine ended. I had been in quarantine for 14 days because I just came back from travel for work and it went fairly well. So, right now I’m out of quarantine, yet busy and still being careful and respecting what our health agencies and governments are telling us to do.

John Hannaford: Right. But, obviously, this is a fairly difficult situation for many of our colleagues.

Daniel Campeau: Yes.

John Hannaford: What is your advice in this situation? What are the most effective strategies in this context?

Daniel Campeau: I would say right now, the first thing—the thing that is necessary, important—is to find the time each day to maintain links with the people we love and who love us. That means—be it colleagues, friends, family members—using the technological resources at our disposal, whether it is FaceTime, Skype or Microsoft Enterprise, to communicate regularly with people, because what I am being asked at the moment is really unheard of in ... probably in ... surely for our generation, for current generations, and it’s been a good amount of time in history since we’ve been asked to remain confined and to isolate ourselves, as we have always survived great crises in history by regrouping, by being together. So, it’s necessary, somehow, to try to manage our obligation to isolate as best as possible by staying in virtual contact with people.

Second thing, I think, what is important to remember is that because we’re asked to stay home, because we’re confined, because we’ve been asked to fly back to Canada and probably these were not our choices, we’ve been robbed somewhat of our feeling of control over our lives—over the course of our lives. So we have to think of ways to regain some sense of control. So what I encourage people to focus on, of all the worries they have right now—which are quite understandable—what are the problems or the issues they can do something about? And often, these are very concrete issues and they’re issues that are important, say, in the present and immediately so. Focus on what we can control. That can be a very helpful strategy because if we spend time thinking about issues or worries that are hypothetical or which we don’t have control, we’re actually feeding this sense of helplessness that can add to our distress.

The other thing I think also is to, when we figure that, on an issue we don’t have control, is then there are things we can do in terms of managing our own emotions. And so right now, if people have always had good sleep hygiene, good eating habits, are exercising—these are the times to leverage those good practices and to maybe think about adopting other practices such as relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga. Those are the fundamentals, I think, right now. I think what’s important also is that we exercise self-compassion and compassion with our colleagues, with our superiors and also with our employees.

The situation facing us is truly unprecedented. So, it’s important to have some compassion and to remember that, even though people right now have a lot of concern or anxiety, there are a lot of people who are willing to collaborate and who are ready to get involved, who want to contribute. And then, despite that, it can be difficult for them to do it because they have concerns about the virus, and then they have to manage the children’s homework at home, and activities for the children.

So people have, right now, many responsibilities. So, even though they are wanting to do their best and to contribute, their best might not look like what it looked like before. And so it’s important for us to be compassionate and patient with our colleagues, with our employees, with our managers.

John Hannaford: Yeah, I totally agree with that. Thank you for all of those points because I think they’re very helpful. And I think the compassion point is really important because this is, as you say, this is a unique situation and one that creates very specific strains on individuals. And …

Daniel Campeau: Yes.

John Hannaford: … and I think we need to be aware we’re going through this together and we need to be kind to each other as we are going through it. It’s a strange kind of paradoxical situation where we’re, at the one hand, isolated, but on the other hand, this is a common experience. And I think, exactly as you say, those are, those are very important techniques to deal with …

Daniel Campeau: Yes. Yes.  

John Hannaford: … what we’re confronting.

Daniel Campeau: Yes, exactly. And, this is, in a way, a novel, unheard-of situation and we possibly, we’re right now, not yet—you know, people have been telling me or started to talk to me about the “new normal” and I think we might not be there yet. I think we’re still in that ending phase of something and stepping into a transition phase where some of us might experience grief over what used to be, in terms of work or in terms of our personal lives. And so it’s important to give ourselves a chance to experiment and to forgive ourselves if sometimes we make mistakes and to remember that, yes, we’re all in this together and this is new territory for all of us. And that we, by maintaining these connections, we will, I think, be able to get through this.

John Hannaford: Daniel, what are the services that are available to people that you would refer them to as they are, if they are particularly struggling right now?

Daniel Campeau: Well, if they are struggling, our department is one of the few departments that has an internal employee assistance program. And I think right now is a great opportunity to leverage these services. The program is free and is available to all Canada-based staff [CBS], to all locally engaged staff [LES], as well as family members. And it’s relatively easy to access the program if people can either write directly to me— and in turn I will refer them to one of the counsellors—or they can even call me on my work iPhone at 613-617-6873. And I will respond to calls and, again, will listen and try to provide support or refer them to a counsellor. We have currently 5 full-time counsellors on staff.

John Hannaford: OK, well that’s great …

Daniel Campeau: One . . .

John Hannaford: Oh, I’m sorry, Daniel. I spoke over you. Go ahead.

Daniel Campeau: No, no. One thing I wanted to add is that what I’m hearing, Mr. Hannaford, is that, “oh well, I would think of calling you but I think you must be so busy, so overwhelmed.” So, people are, you know, assuming that I am or we’re too busy to respond and, so, please, don’t make that assumption. And we are able to respond to all requests and don’t wait till the situation is even more difficult, or dire. If you think that you would benefit from talking to someone, from getting some support early on at the outset of maybe your worry, your anxiety or distress, please reach out to us.

We are also offering, of course, sessions for groups. Currently, we’re just ending sessions with heads of missions and program managers in our network of missions. And we will be offering sessions for people that have been repatriated. And also sessions for employees that are still at missions that would include, of course, CBS and LES, and how best to manage and to cope with the psychological consequences of the current situation.

John Hannaford: Well, look, I really appreciate your time today, Daniel. These are very helpful comments and thank-you  …

Daniel Campeau: You’re welcome.

John Hannaford: … as well for identifying the services available. Do take care.

Daniel Campeau: Take care. Stay healthy, please.

John Hannaford: You, too. Bye-bye.

Daniel Campeau: Thank you. Bye.

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