From today (14/09/2020) face coverings are compulsory in indoor spaces in Wales.
Although we would strongly urge everyone to try to wear face coverings to protect themselves and those around them, we know that wearing face masks can be triggering and anxiety inducing for survivors. Survivors should not feel guilt or shame in their decision not to wear a mask, if this helps to avoid severe distress.
Welsh Government guidance says that there are “reasonable excuses” for not wearing coverings and English guidance suggests that individuals who “cannot put on, wear, or remove a face covering without severe distress” are exempt. The guidance advises individuals “to carry information if possible, which demonstrates why they have a reasonable excuse” to not wear a mask. You can download and/or print a Welsh Women’s Aid card for survivors in English and Welsh here:
Trauma Related Stress Downloadable Card
If you feel as though you may be able to wear a face covering, but the experience is distressing, this advice might help:
-Practice wearing your mask in an environment where you feel safe. Start with wearing it for a short amount of time initially and then gradually add to it.
-Be kind and patient with yourself. This can be a difficult and emotionally complex situation that can trigger a lot of emotions-you are doing something brave by trying.
-Take the time to do something that relaxes you and brings you comfort before wearing your mask.
-Adding a familiar and comforting smell to your mask might make the experience of wearing one more pleasant. Scents such as lavender can be calming or you could chose a scent that reminds you of a safe place or a person you love.
-There are masks available that are made from lots of different fabrics, chose a material that feels ok on your skin. You could also make your own mask out of material that you are familiar with and brings comfort.
-Talk to loved ones and people you trust about your anxieties and panic around mask wearing. The Live Fear Free helpline is available 24/7 to provide support and advice to survivors on 0808 80 10 800
-We would also urge the Bystanders and the public to be supportive and compassionate during this time- it can be difficult for survivors to communicate why they aren’t wearing a mask. Survivors should never feel that they need to disclose details of their trauma for their decision to be accepted.