India — As the battle against Covid-19 becomes really long drawn, the healthcare workers have become vulnerable to mental stress. There are several reasons behind this – the trauma at work, the belief that it might be a risk to themselves and their families, and lack of adequacy and protection. All this combined is leading to a severe psychological distress among healthcare staff on Covid duty. The big question: Are the hospitals taking cognisance of this problem and providing measures to support their staff in the form of counselling and therapy?
MAKE MEDICAL WORKERS AWARE OF COUNSELLING OPTION
Mumbai-based Sachita Sethi Sodha, counselling psychologist and Arts based therapy practitioner, believes that first and foremost it is important to make these frontline workers realise that talking to a professional about their issues is going to help them.
“We need to reach out to them in whichever way possible. Being frontline workers, their priority right now is to look after and save people’s lives. But they need to be made aware that mental health is also important and they need to be more resilient and cope with this crisis in a much better manner with counselling. We do have counselling centres in Mumbai trying to reach out to them,” she says.
Psychologist Priyanka Varma feels that all hospitals need to make mental health counselling a mandatory exercise for every staff that is on Covid duty.
“The way we’re seeing death is something no one has seen before. Eleven deaths in an hour is difficult. Healthcare personnel have a lot of existential questions and hospitals need to have that support system for their staff to deal with it. They should be given regular counselling sessions as a mandate. Talking to friends and family isn’t enough. This also impacts the quality of care that they’re able to give to patients. How will they give their 100 percent if they themselves aren’t emotionally strong? That’s where mental health professionals come in,” she says.
‘WE NEED COUNSELLING’
Swati (name changed upon request), a nurse on Covid duty at Maulana Azad Medical College, says, “There’s no provision to give us any counselling as yet. We all peers are being there for each other and pitching in if one feels low or is unable to handle their duties. The conditions at the hospitals are very bad. Our psyche is to just give our best. But, some staff needs urgent counselling. If that’s arranged, there would be some positivity among us.”
Teerathnath, a nurse working in an East Delhi nursing home, reveals how mostly staff nurse is doing 12-hours duty. While vaccination has been done for the entire staff, mentally, everyone is feeling quite vulnerable.
“We’re worried about the patients; and about our families. Hum chaah ke bhi patients ko bachaa nahi paa rahe. Bahut dukh hota hai. Many nurses are severely dehydrated because once in the Covid ward, we can’t take out the PPE kit or masks. Many are facing depression and anxiety. Even food intake is hampered. There’s no counselling arrangements in small hospitals, so nothing being done to take care of us mentally,” she shares.
PROVISIONS ARE IN THE PROCESS
Kamna Chhibber, Clinical Psychologist, Head – Mental Health, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, says they’ve made provisions for counselling for their healthcare workers.
“We’re trying to make sure that there’s access available in whatever format possible. We understand that the need may not be immediate, but it’s evolving. For some people, the concern may be right now, but many may have PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and they might need that help in the future.
MOTIVATION IS THE KEY
Insisting on the necessity to create a formal or informal platform to provide social support to these healthcare workers, Counselling Psychologist & Founder, Embrace Change, Ajanta Sen says we need to establish a “buddy system.”
She explains, “We’ve to give them professional support. Healthcare workers are already having physiological problems for over a year now without rest. That’s where we’re lacking. We need to support them with self care tools and encourage them to practice healthy, coping strategies regularly. They feel harassed. They can’t leave their jobs, at the end of the day they need money. Their psychological failings can reduce their competency at work. So, it’s very important that some counsellors come into the picture.”
Sodha adds in agreement, “We need to make them believe they’re doing a good job. Also, making them realize that things are not going to remain the same. They should be made to feel hopeful.”
REASONS OF ANXIETY AMONG HEALTHCARE WORKERS
*Fear of family welfare
*Lack of social support
*Stigmatising attitude from general public
*Fear of catching the virus
*Away from family
WHAT CAN HELP THEM
*Support of family members and friends
*Communication with peers at hospitals
*The HR of organisations must take cognizance of their issues
*Sufficient breaks between shifts
*Journaling their dayFollow us on Social Media
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