A Johannesburg-based psychiatrist and her colleagues are helping healthcare workers cope with the pressures of working during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Dr Antoinette Mirric offers four free counselling session through the Healthcare Workers Care Network (HWCN), which she founded.
Mirric treats healthcare workers who are struggling with anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe stress.
“Our clients also deal with stress and grief from losing a loved one or colleague to the pandemic. We help them through this.”
The HWCN works with the South African Society of Psychiatrists, South African Medical Association, Psychological Society of South Africa, South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and the South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA).
In addition to counselling, Mirric also coordinates counselling sessions with other mental health professionals.
To date, the HWCN has helped over 500 healthcare workers, including administrative staff, and put in over 450 hours of individual and group therapy sessions.
The sessions are conducted using the World Health Organisation-approved Psychological First Aid (PFA) method. “After the first session, where we deploy PFA, my colleagues and I use supportive counselling to help the person get through whatever trauma they experienced,” says Mirric.
She adds that the HWCN uses volunteer counsellors, through SADAG’s 24 Hour Helpline (0800 21 21 21). Healthcare workers can call the helpline and provide details of the help they need. SADAG then sends this information to HWCN, who contacts the client.
The HWCN also has an emergency mental health crisis intervention programme that transports, accommodates and treats healthcare workers who have a mental health emergency.
It also trains supervisors how to assist their employees.
“We conduct online training for non-healthcare managers and staff in healthcare environments, which helps them identify the warning signs of burnout, depression and PTSD in their team,” Mirric says.
The Convenor of the SASA Wellness in Anaesthesia Support Group, Caroline Lee, says the HWCN’s help is really needed as healthcare professionals are under severe pressure.
“Healthcare professionals are also stressed, exhausted, deeply worried and at risk. It is critically important to be as supportive as possible of doctors, nurses, healthcare support staff and allied medical personnel,” says Lee.
To get assistance from the HWCN, visit www.healthcareworkerscarenetwork.org.za, send an SMS to 43001 or use the EMGuidance and Vulamobile apps.