Fostering Mental & Emotional Wellbeing for Staff and Clients During COVID-19
Written by Ilsa Bird – Sector Support Coordinator
“25% to 33% of the community are experiencing high levels of worry and anxiety”
– the Black Dog Institute
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the mental and emotional wellbeing of Australians. According to a recent report by the Black Dog Institute, some of the consequences of COVID-19 have included anxiety and panic, depression, anger, confusion and uncertainty, and financial stress, with estimates of between 25% to 33% of the community experiencing high levels of worry and anxiety. So, what can organisations do to foster the wellbeing of their clients and their staff during COVID-19? Below we have included information and resources for aged care staff and organisations to support mental and emotional health.
How can organisations and managers support staff emotional wellbeing?
Determine the needs of your staff
To support your staff, it is important to understand the challenges they are facing. Administer an anonymous survey to gauge if they are experiencing any emotional distress or mental ill-health. This information can be used to determine the information and resources required to effectively support staff.
Within the organisation, there should be regular and open communication about mental and emotional health. It is important that organisations normalise the mental and emotional consequences of COVID-19 and in turn, normalise help-seeking. Provide information about stress management, developing resilience and where to seek further help if employees are experiencing distress.
- Wellness Apps: EAP Assist have collated a list of Apps to support mental and emotional health. The Apps address a comprehensive range of issues, including depression, anxiety, stress, resilience, confidence & sleep.
- Online short courses: This Way Up, is a website that provides online short courses to understand and improve stress, worry, anxiety and depression.
- Mental health services: NSW Health provides a list of contacts and specialised services for mental health including services for women, men, families, Indigenous Australians and multicultural groups.
- Find a Psychologist: This service is Australia-wide and can help to locate a psychologist who specialise in specific issues and mental illnesses. Go to findapsychologist.org.au or call 1800 333 497.
Set realistic expectations.
It is important to note that during the pandemic, staff productivity may be impacted by various factors including balancing work and home life. High workload and unrealistic expectations can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Determine where you can be flexible in order to foster staff wellbeing.
- TEN – The Essential Network: an App supporting Health Professionals to manage life and work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the COVID-19 situation changes, this will also impact emotional and mental wellbeing of staff. It is important that staff keep on top of their mental health by undertaking regular self-assessment and reflection.
- Mental Health Checklist: A factsheet developed by the Black Dog Institute that provides advice about weekly mental health check-ins
How can aged care staff support client emotional wellbeing?
Keep them informed
Regular communication with clients should include information to reassure them and reduce fear and anxiety. For example, information about organisational infection control procedures to keep staff and clients safe and well.
Refer clients at risk
During COVID-19, older people may not have contact with family and friends and therefore home and community care workers may be their only face to face contact. Staff should be aware of symptoms of mental ill-health and emotional distress in order to refer clients or provide resources for support.
- Mental health services: NSW Health provides a list of contacts and specialised services for mental health including services for older people, multicultural groups and Indigenous Australians.
- Managing Emotional Wellbeing workshop: This is a free interactive workshop designed for consumers to enhance mental and emotional wellbeing. Download the Managing Your Emotional Wellbeing flyer here
Encourage access to reliable information.
Although it is tempting to follow social and traditional media for COVID-19 updates, this is not always the best source for accurate information. Providers should also ensure that they only share information from reputable sources such as the Department of Health.
- COVID-19 Health Alerts: accurate and up to date information from the Department of Health
- Information Line 1800 171 866: The National COVID Older Persons Information line offers current information and where to access support regarding COVID-19
- OPAN Information Line 1800 237 981: A telephone line run by the Older Persons Advocacy Network for older people to discuss their concerns related to COVID-19
Support social connection
Social isolation can significantly impact mental and emotional wellbeing. During COVID-19 social activities have been put on hold however there are many services that have been developed to support social connection via phone or online. It is also important to note that during COVID-19 some providers also have flexibility within service arrangements to deliver individual social support (e.g. phone or online) in replacement of group social support activities.
- COVID-19 Flexibility Provisions Information for CHSP service providers
- CVS: The Community Visitors Scheme organises volunteers to virtually visit (via phone or online) people receiving Home Care Packages.
- FriendLine 1800 424 287: A national telephone support service for older people to call just to have a chat.
- Be connected: An Australian Government website that supports clients to remain socially connected by utilising digital platforms.
During COVID-19, maintaining positive mental and emotional health is just as important as maintaining physical health. We encourage you to share these resources and tips with your staff and clients in order to support their wellbeing during the pandemic. Remember, we are all in this together.
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