“We need to consider the greater good here. This is a social justice issue”


PreKure’s clinical psychologist, Dr Desiree Dickerson shares her very real experience from a locked-down Spain.


Each day for the foreseeable future we here at PreKure are coming to you live at 8PM New Zealand-time on Facebook to talk about issues regarding COVID-19. Go to our Facebook page here.


As a clinical psychologist, I’m here to talk a bit about first, my own experience, being that I am living in Spain in total lockdown right now and a few tips and tricks for managing our own stress and wellbeing while we are experiencing these uncertain times. 

I’m in a small town in the South of Valencia. Right now, we’re in total lockdown. Spain currently has the fifth highest number of cases in the world and we are following that same trajectory that you’ve seen in Italy, or in fact it’s looking worse than Italy was at day 14, which we are now.

We’re under a state of emergency nationwide. What does that mean? That means that all schools are closed from kindergarten through the university. All our bars and restaurants and social spaces are closed. We are not allowed out unless we are heading directly to the supermarket, to the pharmacy, to essential work, to hospital or to the doctors, of course.

The police are patrolling the streets. If you’re found outside, especially in a group of people or if, say, myself and my family were found outside, there’s no justification for being outside all of us together. You would be sent home and they do in fact have powers of arrest. The government has taken control of all of the private hospitals and we’re readying ourselves for what is to come, and what is here, quite honestly.

There are no flights in and out of Spain anymore. Let me paint a picture of just how quickly this started to unfold. My usual job is consulting with universities across Europe on their mental health and on their wellbeing. I was due to be in the UK and in Sweden this week to run workshops. Last Monday, I was still planning on going. I was pretty sure I could still travel. The universities were all open. It was very much status quo. By Wednesday, I was in discussion about cancelling. By Thursday I had cancelled all of my travel. On Friday we were in lockdown at home. It evolved that quickly. 

We’re in really restricted movements and the police are patrolling the streets because when these things first started unfolding, when they first said, “Hey guys, the schools are going to close.” People from the bigger places like Madrid, who all have holiday homes where we live, all jumped in their cars and left Madrid – one of the hotspots of COVID-19. They thought, “Well, we’re going to spend this by the beach.” This is not a time for vacation, guys. This is social isolation, which means a lockdown in your houses, not going to the beach.

They’ve now locked down the beaches. They’ve locked down the bars. They’ve locked down everything so that people don’t perceive this as a holiday, because it isn’t. There are lives at stake here. We need to take care of each other. We need to consider the greater good here. This is a social justice issue. We need to be at home and we need to be thinking about everyone. On Friday, people were still going to the bars and having coffees. Today, everybody’s in their house and nobody’s allowed to leave.


“It’s really important that we listen to the advice that we were receiving and we stay at home.”


Now, in saying that, in our area, in an area that would be the size of, let’s say, all of the Otago region in New Zealand, there’s probably 300,000 people in the region, we’ve got six cases. That’s it. Nobody knows anyone that’s got a case but we’re still in lockdown because this thing spreads, before you know you’ve got it. It’s really important that we listen to the advice that we were receiving and we stay at home.

What are we finding difficult at the moment? Well, I suppose it’s everywhere. It’s all that everyone is talking about. It’s all over your feed. It’s really hard to escape and it’s probably the same for all of you. It’s impacting on our work. For me, I’m self-employed and my work is really seasonal. I had just hit my stride. I was about to be travelling a lot and I’ve had everything canceled. It’s been a huge financial blow.

For others – even bigger. Most of my work has been postponed, thankfully, or I’m going to have to evolve and put this all online. But for me, the financial pressures are really significant and they are of course, for many, quite frightening. Now, the reverse obviously is that many people are having to work. If you’re a bank teller, then you’ve still got to be there serving people and being sneezed on and coughed on each day. If you work in a supermarket, you are one of the most likely to contract these things.


“Please, when you’re asked to self isolate, please consider that there are people here that still have to work and give some thoughts to them.” 


They’re putting their health and their families and their loved ones on the line because they have to be there to help us, to keep society going.

Now, after all of that doom and gloom, I do need to point out that there’s some really beautiful moments happening here. Really beautiful moments. Over the weekend, obviously the restrictions have tightened, but in those first few days we were out walking in the bush.  We were spending some really nice quality family time. 

I should say, in Spain, we’re all in apartments. We’re in lockdown in apartments. There’s no backyard for our kids to go out and play. We’re on the terrace quite a bit. Thankfully we have one. We’ve been watering the plants a lot. The kids get out on the terrace and they just holler down to the people in the street. Normally, we would tell the kids not to yell. But now, people call back. I’ve met neighbours across the street that I shamefully have never greeted before.


“At eight o’clock last night we started hearing this applause and outside on the street, everybody was leaning out of their windows and applauding for all of the people, all of the frontline health workers, all of the supermarket staff, all of those people who are keeping working so that we can stay safe.”


It makes you feel really connected and it’s really beautiful to see. Kids are hanging pictures out on the terraces to show all the other kids, ‘hey, you’re not alone’. We’re all in this together. We’re all in our houses, everybody’s here. People are playing music from the balconies, and places like the state opera in Vienna are broadcasting all of the operas live. The Berlin Philharmonic orchestra is playing. The kids’ favourite singer is on every night broadcasting his music live so that everyone can see it and feel together.


Read more:

COVID-19: How to talk to your kids about it

COVID-19: How to keep mentally well

What is COVID-19 and what can you do today?

COVID-19 – Our opportunity to squash exponential growth