Protecting the mental health of front line staff and key workers during COVID-19
It is important for organisations to understand how to support the psychological wellbeing of staff who are exposed to traumatic working conditions, especially where employees have little or no training in how to prepare or cope with the emotional impact of the current difficult working environment.
During COVID19 local authorities will need their staff to continue to function and carry out their very important roles and manage the increasing need for their services and information whilst dealing with their own personal situations and emotions.
Front line and key workers, especially those in social care roles, may be worried about their vulnerability to a higher risk of infection and worried about spreading the virus to their families, or they may be experiencing additional stress because of having to offer more support to bereaved and grieving residents.
Employees who are in roles that are exposed to new or additional trauma may therefore have a higher risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and possibly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which could result in long-term sickness absence, either now or when the crisis has passed.
Wellbeing research suggests that good organisational leadership and a supportive work culture can have a positive impact on the psychological wellbeing of these staff before, during and after the crisis. During this period of increased period of pressure and anxiety, it is essential that employers send a clear message that staff wellbeing matters.
Key steps recommended for employers
- British Association of Social Workers – ethical guidance for social workers considering some of the specific choices and decisions that practitioners are having to make in this emergency situation, including rationing of support and resources and more stringent prioritisation
- British Safety Council – a free online course that provides line managers with the skills and confidence to listen to and talk with someone who feels that they need to share a problem regarding their mental health.
- Community Care – a guide on developing emotional resilience and well-being which has been updated in light of the Coronavirus
- Skills for Care – a guide for adult social care staff on how to build personal resilience with practical tasks to complete that help individuals to recognise pressure, develop coping strategies and gives advice on creating a network of support.
- A free online platform containing 8 easy-to-access, short practical exercises to help NHS and frontline staff alleviate and combat high anxiety, panic and fatigue while responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Able Futures – delivering the Department for Work and Pensions Access to work mental health support service for individuals, employers and apprenticeship providers.