Health care worker mental distress: there is help!

At the start of the COVID 19 epidemic in South Africa I was ready to work wherever a palliative doctor was needed. However, as I started to understand more about the groups at risk of doing badly if infected, I had to have a rethink. I am 65 and feel perfectly healthy but  have several risk factors in addition to age. The prospect of having a conversation with my work colleagues about what to decide caused great anxiety and the term moral distress applied to what I was struggling with.

An email came from Medical Brief announcing help for health care workers struggling with the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. Was it fair to ask for this support when I wasn’t at the clinical coal face?

I sent the application for a psychologist to contact me. Very soon, I had a reply and the offer of up to 4 zoom consultations. I have had a really helpful and professional therapist and the semi anonymity of Zoom has been a positive for me.

There are two contradictory messages for health care workers: either “put on your own oxygen mask first”, stay at home if you are at high risk or the health worker hero who is not daunted by fear. The moral distress of facing these choices has not gone away, but I have been helped to live with my decision.

I encourage all health care workers who are facing their own distress during the pandemic to recognise when they need help and to ask for it. There are very supportive and professional people willing and able to help.

My sincere thanks to the organisations and to the psychologists who have volunteered their professional services.

Dr Janet Stanford, Knysna Hospice


Mental Health Support for Healthcare Workers

Dear Colleagues

Last week a communication was sent out, which requested volunteers to sign up to provide mental health support via the Healthcare Workers Care Network (HWCN). This programme is a collaboration of the South African Medical Association (SAMA), The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), The South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), The South African Society of Anaesthetics) and The Psychology Society of South Africa (PsySSA). 

The purpose of this programme is to provide mental health support to all healthcare professionals requiring care during this challenging time.

Should you require such support, please register here