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COVID-19: Healthcare workers dealing with mental strain get helpline

Sadag's Cassey Chambers said as the pandemic continues to take its toll in South Africa, healthcare workers are most likely to be exposed to infection on a daily basis.

Experts working in the field of mental health said healthcare workers are exhausted, stressed, and at high risk for physical and mental illness. Picture: 123rf

CAPE TOWN – As the number of COVID-19 infections increases across the country, frontline workers are not only contracting and dying of the virus, but the pandemic is also taking a physical and mental strain on them.

In the Western Cape alone, since the start of the pandemic, 1,713 health workers have been infected and 17 have died to date.

This week the Healthcare Workers Care Network was launched, a nationwide healthcare worker support network spearheaded by partners; SA Society of Psychiatrists, the SA Medical Association, and the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag).

Experts working in the field of mental health said that healthcare workers were exhausted, stressed, and at high risk for physical and mental illness.

Sadag's Cassey Chambers said that as the pandemic continued to take its toll in South Africa, healthcare workers were most likely to be exposed to infection on a daily basis.

“We already have a strained healthcare system, and now under the coronavirus we find that healthcare workers are working harder longer hours under an incredibly stressful and difficult environment.”

They typically work long hours and they have to take care of their own family, with all the challenges of home-schooling, fatigue and burnout.

And, every new COVID-19 diagnosis means longer hours, less sleep, and increasingly irregular meals for our frontline workers, resulting in weakened immune systems and lower resilience.

The network offers all healthcare workers across the public and private sectors free support, free therapy, resources, training and psychoeducation.

"As a way to be proactive and prevent our South African healthcare workers from suffering in the longrun, we launched a dedicated helpline for healthcare workers to look after their mental health.”

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.