KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic could threaten frontliners' mental health causing depression, anxiety, insomnia, or distress.
According to a study on healthcare workers exposed to Covid-19 in China, for instance, which was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, a considerable proportion of the 1,257 individuals surveyed were psychologically distressed.
In the study, involving 764 nurses, and 493 physicians - 760 worked in hospitals in Wuhan, and 522 frontline health care workers - 50.4 per cent of participants reported symptoms of depression, 44.6 per cent had anxiety, 34 per cent experienced insomnia, and 71.5 per cent were distress.
Among the reasons cited were the prolonged surge in the number of Covid-19 cases, the overwhelming workload, information overload, and insufficient personal protective equipment and drugs.
The paper also noted that medical personnel attending to the disease experience stigmatisation, as well as fear of infection for themselves and their families.
“Protecting health care workers is an important component of public health measures in addressing Covid-19.
“Special interventions to promote mental well-being in health care workers exposed to Covid-19 need to be immediately implemented, with women, nurses, and frontline workers requiring particular attention,” the researchers noted.
Understanding the urgent need to care for Malaysia’s frontliners, the Health Ministry along with Mercy Malaysia has set up a psychosocial support service for frontliners and the general public emotionally affected by this outbreak.
They can be reached at 011-63996482 / 011-63994236 / 03-29359935 from 8am to 5pm daily.
The service is managed by psychologists from the Health Ministry and volunteers from Mercy Malaysia.
According to the World Health Organisation’s guide on “Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During Covid-19 Outbreak”, feeling under pressure is a likely experience for health workers.
“It is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a reflection that you cannot do your job or that you are weak.
“Managing your mental health and psychosocial wellbeing during this time is as important as managing your physical health,” WHO said.
They are advised to try and use helpful coping strategies such as ensuring sufficient rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends.
WHO also noted that staying connected with their loved ones including through digital methods is one way to maintain contact as some healthcare workers could experience avoidance by their loved ones due to stigma.
“Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support - your colleagues may be having similar experiences to you.
“Use understandable ways to share messages with people with intellectual, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities. Forms of communication that do not rely solely on written information should be utilised If you are a team leader or manager in a health facility.”