Managing mental health during COVID-19: tips for managers and care staff

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For care staff on the frontline, there’s never been a more important time to protect your mental health. Dealing with the stresses of care work can be difficult at the best of times without the addition of a global pandemic. 

The BMJ found (in their recent article) that healthcare staff are at increased risk of moral injury and mental health problems when dealing with challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. At Birdie, we see this every day. Our Carer of the Week series asks care staff to share with us how they’re coping during COVID-19, and overwhelmingly we hear that staff are worried about the impact of COVID-19. Amy Elsigood, a carer at All Aspects Care told us the following:

“I’m worried that if I get it, I will take it back to my family. That's a big concern. I've got the right PPE and my agency ensures we have the right precautions so not too scared, but you always have that fear at the back of your mind."

Recognising the fears and worries of your staff is just the start. Care managers need to use this time to proactively arm themselves by protecting their own mental health and implementing actions to support their staff.

Start today, with these actions:

  • Reach out to your staff (via email, WhatsApp or even Facebook) and let them know you’re available to listen/talk. 
  • Set up regular team meetings - we spoke with Trudie Fell of BelleVie care, who told us that these were particularly effective in maintaining mental wellbeing. She told us, “The team has a weekly team meeting, which has been really important in helping them offload and share. I think those video calls are really important to them.”
  • Set up regular check-ins where people can talk about how they’re feeling and get some support and empathy from their colleagues (which is another tip from BelleVie Care). You can use any platform you like, but Trudie recommends Slack or WhatsApp. 
  • Share the NHS mental health hotline with your staff.
  • Check out the video below by Dr Ryan Kemp, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust - it’s full of tips on managing coronavirus worries, and how to stay focused and energised.

What’s next?

Whilst the number of COVID-19 cases are subsiding, the challenges faced by care staff will remain. As a care manager it’s important to remember that poor mental health will impact the ability of your staff to fulfil their roles, so it’s important to think about long-term solutions, not just short-term crisis response. 

Here are some useful tips for ensuring mental health wellbeing post COVID-19:

  • Continue to communicate regularly with staff about news/procedures/updates and make sure they have the most up to date information at all times.
  • Consider implementing flexible schedules for workers who are directly impacted, or have a family member affected by a stressful event. 
  • Build in time for colleagues to provide social support to each other - care work can be incredibly isolated and social support in the form of regular meetings and meet-ups (when restrictions are lifted) can help to maintain wellbeing.
  • Ensure that staff are aware of where and how they can access mental health and psychosocial support services and facilitate access to such services. 
  • Managers and team leaders are facing similar stresses to their staff and may experience additional pressure relating to the responsibilities of their role. It’s important that the above provisions and strategies are in place for both workers and managers, and that managers can be role-models for self-care strategies to mitigate stress.

If you want to know more about mental health and how you can protect yourself and your staff, watch our on-demand webinar with Mark Walsh, founder of Covid Calm where we talk about implementing practical tips for metal heath and how you can spot mental health decline in your staff.

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