Health Workers Suffering Mental Health Problems Due To Covid

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By James Muonwa

SCORES of health care workers, including doctors and nurses, are breaking down under the weight of stressful working conditions that potentially lead to long-term anxiety-related disorders.

These could also result in individuals suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), while others might commit suicide.

Mashonaland West provincial mental health officer, Tichaona Mahachi said despite being trained in health issues, workers in the sector were heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Covid-19 came with implications on mental health on our health workers, despite them being trained personnel with deep knowledge on health issues.

“They also suffered from stress-related disorders, anxiety-related disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders,” he said.

Mahachi was addressing journalists and various stakeholders on Monday during an interactive meeting organised by Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) in Chinhoyi focusing on the impact of the pandemic.

Mahachi said anxiety among health professionals was triggered by the sight of dead bodies, infected and affected people, among other causes internal and external.

“Anxiety comes about when you see someone infected or someone who has tested positive and then you ask yourself ‘am l also safe, is my family or colleague safe from the disease?’

“This alone generates a level of anxiety where people are then affected. Stress can be emotional or physical, and of internal or external origin,” he added.

“Diagnosis of Covid-19 on an individual can generate stress because then they will say ‘will l survive it?’

“The exogenous stresses come mainly from the work environment. Being a health worker on its own is a threat as the occupation demands that you be on the frontline to save the population from dying and in the process, you are exposed,” said Mahachi.

Depression could result in patients exhibiting anti-social behaviour like reclusiveness, among other feelings.

“Depression leads to symptoms such as helplessness, sadness, loneliness as one would be eating up inside.”

Mahachi raised fears of the likelihood of a rise in suicide cases involving health care personnel in the aftermath of the pandemic, which has claimed millions of lives across the globe.

“PTSD refers to the response of a person who has seen the worst things in their lives seeing people dying, bodies put in mortuaries, all these are unpleasant sights leading to PTSD, which can lead to some committing suicide,” Mahachi said.

IN order to curtail the negative impact of Covid-19 on mental health of workers in the sector, the health ministry has undertaken training of staff on psychological first aid (PFA), which is designed to prepare minds to deal with traumatic experiences such as those wrought by Covid-19.