Mental health for the health workforce during COVID-19

Health workers are facing unprecedented circumstances and pressure during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This can take a toll on mental health. Read about what you can do to look after your mental health and wellbeing during this challenging time.

Why mental health is important for health workers

Health workers at the centre of the COVID-19 pandemic are critical in the fight against the virus.

Measures like social distancing and isolation are helping to slow its spread. But health workers still face extreme pressure from the increased demand on the health care system.

Long and irregular hours and heavy workloads can increase stress and cause mental health issues, including burnout. Managers and supervisors should be sensitive to the issues that might affect their employees.

Looking after yourself, your mental health and wellbeing is critical in these tough times.

Get urgent help

If you need help right now, it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anywhere in Australia.

In an emergency, call 000.

Lifeline

Contact Lifeline for support if you are experiencing a personal crisis or have suicidal thoughts. You can call them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from anywhere in Australia.

Lifeline 24-hour crisis line
Postal addresses: 
PO Box 173
Deakin ACT 2600

View contact

Kids Helpline contact

Kids Helpline provides a free, private and confidential phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25. The service is available 24 hours a day from anywhere in Australia.

View contact

Suicide Call Back Service

Call the Suicide Call Back Service for immediate, professional 24/7 telephone and online counselling to people who are affected by suicide.

View contact

How health workers might be feeling

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting significant psychological pressure on health workers.

Unprecedented demand on their time and skills can make it hard to take time off.

Even when taking all precautions, there is a constant worry about being exposed to the virus, and unknowingly spreading it to patients and family. Many health workers have to avoid contact with vulnerable family members, causing further social isolation.

Intense media scrutiny and a lack of understanding from the community, including hostility at times, adds to the stress.

Feeling under pressure is normal in the current situation. But these compounding pressures can lead to more serious anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and burnout.

Looking after your mental health and psychosocial wellbeing is important to help you cope in the longer term. This is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

Keeping mentally healthy

Look after your health

Exercising and eating well help us stay physically and mentally healthy.

Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies, such as use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. In the long term, these can worsen your mental and physical wellbeing.

Take breaks

Be kind to yourself, and take breaks during your shifts, even if it is just a few minutes to catch your breath. Managers and supervisors should ensure staff take regular breaks to reduce stress.

Between shifts, get as much rest as you can, and try to take time for yourself to do things you enjoy. Managers and supervisors should make sure staff have enough time between shifts to rest, sleep and prepare for the next day.

Connect

Keep in regular contact with family and friends, even if you are isolating, through:

  • video chats
  • phone calls
  • online groups

Talk about your shared experiences with your colleagues or manager — they are going through the same thing and can offer valuable support.

Managers and supervisors should encourage staff to express any concerns about their mental health, as it might indicate broader issues across their workforce.

Seek support

It’s important to share your feelings with your family, friends, and colleagues. But if you are feeling anxious or depressed for an extended period, see a health professional.

Doctors, and other health care providers, including psychologists, can consult via video or phone. Find out more about telehealth options, or find mental health support contacts.

As a manager or supervisor, if a staff member tells you about the mental health challenges they are experiencing, help them find support, including at Head to Health.

It is important to respect the privacy of staff who are dealing with complex personal and mental health issues and might not wish to discuss these at work.

Support contacts

Find a full list of mental health support contacts

Staying informed

To stay up to date on COVID-19:

You can also join our WhatsApp channel or use our COVID-19 app.

Australian Government WhatsApp channel for COVID-19

Join our COVID-19 WhatsApp channel to learn the latest on Australia's response to coronavirus (COVID-19). If you're already a WhatsApp user you can send a message to the channel to connect. If you don't have WhatsApp, download the app to join the channel.

Coronavirus Australia app

Stay up to date with official information and advice about the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. You can check your symptoms and get notified when urgent information and updates are published.

Resources

Online training

A 30-minute online module — COVID-19 infection control training — is available for care workers across all health care settings.

This training is hosted on an external site, provided by our COVID-19 training partner Aspen Medical.

Register now

Publications and fact sheets

Check the Head to Health website for:

  • links information, advice, and free or low-cost phone and online mental health supports and services
  • resources and services (including COVID specific) that can help if you’re experiencing mental health concerns or trying to support someone else

More resources for health care workers are available at our coronavirus (COVID-19) resources collection.

Read about Australia’s National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. It responds to the mental health and wellbeing needs of all Australians during the response and in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan has been developed under the co-leadership of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Government and has been informed by all jurisdictions.

Webinars

View our webinars on the COVID-19 response for the health and aged care sector.

Mental health for patients and carers

For mental health information for patients and carers, see our page about looking after your mental health.

More resources for the general public are available at our coronavirus (COVID-19) resources collection.

Last updated: 
22 May 2020

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