The guidelines identify the source of anxiety and the indicators that healthcare professionals are facing mental health difficulties at the workplace.
The NIMHANS has come out with guidelines that define a framework to address the mental health needs of healthcare personnel in COVID-19 treatment settings. The guidelines also aim to provide technical inputs to guide healthcare personnel to help themselves and their colleagues in distress.
The guidelines identify the source of anxiety and the indicators that healthcare professionals are facing mental health difficulties at the workplace. “This guidance prepared by the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) defines the framework for administrators and healthcare supervisors to address the mental health needs of healthcare personnel in COVID-19 treatment settings,” it said.
The sources of anxiety among the healthcare professionals have been identified as fear of exposure to self and transmitting to family, concern regarding personal protection equipment, fear of family welfare if requiring quarantine or isolation, uncertainty of extent of support from organisation, support for personal and family needs with increasing work demands and lack of information and communication.
The indicators that healthcare professionals are facing mental health difficulties at the workplace include absenteeism, reduced job performance and productivity, poor memory, restlessness or irritability and drowsiness among others.
“These psychological disturbances may be linked to the many psychosocial stressors in the wake of the pandemic. Hence, management strategies primarily need to focus on mitigating the psychosocial stressors to the extent possible,” the guidelines said. It lays down ways to assess if a healthcare professional is in distress.
The guidelines recommended that all COVID-19 treatment centres must be provided with a designated mental health support network for personnel. “Ideally both psychiatric and counselling services need to be made available,” it said.
The frontline personnel also need to be made aware of the various possible mental health support systems available locally, if they wish to access help outside their workplace, it said.
“A district level helpline for all frontline personnel is helpful. Ready answers for FAQs is a must for running such helplines. They can also be made aware of the currently running state/national level helplines for health care workers,” it said.
The guidelines also recommended that administrators should promote awareness about mental health and stress.
“Team meetings may also be used to discuss common mental health issues that arise out of working under difficult circumstances (stress, burnout, anxiety, fear, etc.) and simple steps for psychological ‘self-care’,” it said. Ensure a clear protocol for diagnosis and treatment of healthcare personnel. This will help to avoid uncertainty or confusion, the guidelines said.
The guidelines also recommend the healthcare professionals to take self care by maintaining a routine, ensuring breaks and adequate sleep, keeping in touch with relatives and friends, carrying out some activities and hobbies unrelated to work, exercising regularly and having a healthy diet and practicing relaxation exercises like yoga among others.