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Perspective

Mental Health Impact of COVID

Make no mistake the pandemic is hurting and harming many within our family and workplaces. Here is the latest data available on the impact of the pandemic.

survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed over 40% of Australians had experienced feelings associated with anxiety and depression between mid-July and mid-August. Again, these feelings were more prominent in women and those aged 18 to 64 years. Only 17% of those who had experienced such feelings discussed them with a doctor or other health professional.

According to the Black Dog Institute, those with pre-existing anxiety disorders and mental health problems, health care workers, in quarantine and unemployed or employed on a casual basis are at a higher risk of experiencing these feelings.

For health care workers and other front-line workers, these feelings may be caused by burnout. Burnout is commonly experienced by young registered nurses and by nurses who have higher patient numbers. Risks of burnout have been unsurprisingly heightened during the fight against the pandemic. They may also face emotional overload due to shortages of personal protective equipment and the fear of infection.

Parents are also at risk having experienced increased worry and stress with schools and childcare centers closing down. In a tracking poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in mid-July, over 65% of US parents expressed concern about their children falling behind socially, emotionally and academically. Approximately 50% expressed concern about losing income if they could not go to work or not being able to pay their children enough attention if they were working from home.

The reality of the pandemic and its impact on mental health is beginning to hit home more than ever. AIA Australia revealed call volumes at their super fund call centres have surged during the pandemic, particularly in relation to life insurance applications and other insurance covers, receiving between 6-12 months volume in a single month. Lifeline Australia is receiving approximately 3200 calls each day, compared to a daily average of 2500 in 2019. In Victoria, the mass business closures and strict curfews have led to a 20% increase in mental health crisis calls across various mental health support groups. Approximately 66% of the calls to Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service are coming from Victoria.

Written by Nes Demir

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Heightened levels of stress around the pandemic is also a relevant factor. An April 2020 study reported 88% of the participants (US employees) faced moderate to extreme stress during the pandemic and nearly 70% faced the most stressful time of their professional career.

Paul Evans

Managing Director, Toro Digital

Psychological hazards of e-working during the pandemic is a relevant factor. The Australian Psychological Society identified these hazards as conflicts between work and family, workload and over-working, future uncertainty and isolation/loneliness.

Heightened levels of stress around the pandemic is also a relevant factor. An April 2020 study reported 88% of the participants (US employees) faced moderate to extreme stress during the pandemic and nearly 70% faced the most stressful time of their professional career. Participants noted their productivity consequently declined by at least one hour a day for 62% and at least two hours for 32%.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a marked rise in mental health related prescriptions since March 2020.

These risks can be mitigated by undertaking appropriate risk analysis for each employee, ensuring controls are instituted that mitigate those risks, ensuring regular communication between management and employees around individual circumstances, setting clear expectations including around joint goals and objectives, scheduling regular informal team gatherings, and ensuring access to support and resources.

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