October is Safe Work Australia’s (SWA) National Safe Work Month, the focus for this year is Work Health and Safety (WHS) through COVID-19 (SWA, 2020). This year’s theme highlights the WHS challenges, the positive outcomes brought on by the pandemic and the role WHS plays in keeping workers safe during a pandemic. Each week will focus on a different impact associated with COVID-19 while encouraging best practice:
- Week 1 (1st October) – Join National Safe Work Month;
- Week 2 (5th October) – Navigating Mental Health through COVID-19;
- Week 3 (12th October) – Using data to make workplaces safer;
- Week 4 (19th October) – A safe and healthy workplace is for everyone.
This insight focus is on navigating mental health through COVID-19 and coincides with World Mental Health Day on 10th October. By acknowledging how our mental health may be impacted, we can come together to help each other and share what resources are available.
Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health
Everybody has had to adapt to the changes and challenges created by COVID-19. Individuals and families have been in lock-down while industries and workplaces have had to quickly adapt to the “new norm”. Unfortunately for some, this new norm has meant the loss of jobs, businesses closing and economic uncertainty in the future. For others, it has meant adapting to working from home and adjusting to new WHS risks posed from returning to workplaces.
COVID-19 poses not only a physical risk to our health but also a mental risk. Over the last 6 months, there has been an increased awareness on hygiene to prevent illness, we have become familiar with the symptoms of COVID-19 and concerned about the long-term impacts to ourselves and our loved ones. Increasingly, we are beginning to see not only the health impacts and change in behaviour from COVID-19 but also the impact the virus is having on people’s mental health. As we known physical distancing and isolation is being used to prevent the spread of this illness, it is also causing anxiety, stress and worry within the community (Department of Health, 2020).
In April 2020, Beyond Blue saw a 30% increase in COVID-19 contacts in the two weeks prior and as many as one in three calls for COVID-19 support. Over July, during the peak of the Victoria crisis, around 64% of calls and webchats for COVID-19 were received from Victoria and NSW (Beyond Blue, 2020b).
The Australian Government Health Department has provided information and resources for both employers and employees to support mental health. Some help of these resources is provided at the end of this InSight.
Mental health issue – what are the signs?
Under the current circumstances, it’s normal to feel anxious, overwhelmed, confused, sad or even bored. While it is expected to have these feelings, they can take their toll, and we all need to take the time to care for ourselves and to look out for our friends, family and colleagues (Department of Health, 2020). But when do these feelings change from ‘normal’ into a situation that may need monitoring or intervention?
There are several emotional, physical and behavioural signs that show if you are experiencing mental ill-health. They will be different for everyone, and each individual will experience them to varying degrees. They include:
- Negative feelings such as irritability, sadness, haplessness, exhaustion, panic and worry for your mental state;
- Negative thoughts, such as life is too hard, I am no good, I can’t handle my feelings, and I can’t carry on; and
- Unusual behaviours such as changes in motivation, pounding heart, twitches and trembling, impulsiveness and bad choices delusions of self-importance.
Generally, you should seek professional help if you are noticing one or more of these signs and they are:
- Constant or noticeable most of the time;
- Persistent for more than a couple of weeks; or
- It is negatively affecting your daily life.
However, if you are feeling any concerns for your mental health and wellbeing at all, there is never a wrong time to seek help (Black Dog Institute, 2020).
Who can help?
In April this year the Western Australia Government helped launch the “Think Mental Health’s Be Positive, Be Connected. Be Active” campaign which is designed to help people manage their wellbeing through the COVID-19 pandemic (Government of Western Australia, 2020). The campaign is run through the Think Mental Health website and has a “mental health and COVID-19 link” (Think Mental Health, 2020). The strategies and resources have been developed to support individuals and others during the pandemic. They focus on how to protect your mental health and wellbeing; coping with fear, anxiety and worry; maintaining social connections and seeking professional support if needed (Think Mental Health, 2020a).
Most employers also provide access to mental health support, through program typically call Employee Assistance Programs. In most cases, these services are provided not just for the work-related situation but also to help employee cope with situation occurring in there personnel life. Some employers will also allow employee that has been let utilise the services. However, if this is not available to you, there are many resources provided by the Western Australian government or non-government providers available to everyone. Some useful resources are provided at the end of this InSight.
It is important to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings at this time; it is also essential to look out for one another, be it family, friends, co-workers and even strangers. By following the current health guidelines, social distancing and seeking help as soon as needed, we can all get through this together.
The team at Integrate Sustainability want to wish their clients and services providers all the best during these challenging times, and if we can help out, please contact us through 08 9468 0338 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond Blue. (2020b, April 9). Media Release. Retrieved from Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/media/media-releases/media-releases/new-dedicated-service-to-support-australia-s-mental-health-through-covid-19
Black Dog Institute. (2020). When & Where to seek help. Retrieved from Black Dog Institute: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/emergency-help/when-where-to-seek-help/
Department of Health. (2020, 9th September). Looking after your mental health during coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions. Retrieved from Australian Government Department of Health: https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/ongoing-support-during-coronavirus-covid-19/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions
Government of Western Australia. (2020, 9th April). More support for Western Australians’ wellbeing during COVID-19. Retrieved from Media Statements: https://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/McGowan/2020/04/More-support-for-Western-Australians-wellbeing-during-COVID-19.aspx
SWA. (2020, 29th July). WHS through COVID-19 -National Safe Work Month 2020. Retrieved from Safe Work Australia: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/national-safe-work-month
Think Mental Health. (2020, 9th April). Mental Health and COVID-19. Retrieved from Think Mental Health: https://www.thinkmentalhealthwa.com.au/mental-health-and-covid-19/
Think Mental Health. (2020a, April 9). Be Positive. Be Connected. Be Active. Retrieved from Think Mental Health: https://www.thinkmentalhealthwa.com.au/about-think-mental-health/be-positive-be-connected-be-active-campaign/