COVID-19 has taken over both our working and home lives in ways we never could have imagined, and has brought with it many stresses and strains. Therefore, it’s vital that we treat our mental and physical wellbeing as a priority in these uncertain times.
As everyone continues to focus on this global crisis, there’s been no better time for us to partner with our local member insurer Liberty South Africa to look at COVID-19 and its impact on physical and mental health. Along with that, we looked at the importance of access to healthcare in our webinar on Wednesday 9 September.
Liberty opened the webinar looking at the COVID-19 situation in South Africa, before Dr Leena Johns, Head of Health and Wellness at MAXIS GBN, and Navlika Ratangee, Clinical Operations Director at ICAS, looked more closely at health and wellness impacts. Here’s our three key takeaways from the webinar.
1 – How has COVID-19 affected other medical conditions and access to treatment?
Quite rightly, the world has been focused on treating the virus, but what impact has this had on other areas of medicine? Dr Leena discussed how the pressure on the healthcare industry has caused disruption to regular healthcare services. Quarantines and lockdowns have meant many people haven’t been able to access medical care and treatment in the way they would have before. And, with doctors being reassigned to help COVID-19 cases, it has left many patients unable to get the help they need.
Dr Leena shared a study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) which examined 155 countries where people with chronic illness haven’t been receiving adequate medical care. The WHO found that one in four cancer sufferers experienced delays in their treatment and 49% of the countries had faced disruptions in diabetes treatment, which could be vital to the recovery process of patients.1
Given the impact chronic conditions have on the health of employees and the costs this means for employers, this is important for all to think about.
2 – COVID-19 and a mental health crisis
With a combination of fear and social isolation in a world gripped by the virus, it’s no surprise that our mental health is suffering. In the first few weeks of July, the Mental Health Foundation found that 49% of the UK population had felt anxious or worried.2 In an effort to try and educate ourselves, we’re being exposed to countless messages from the media which might be making us more anxious.
Dr Leena said that anxiety is a “rational response of the mind in this extraordinary reality we are facing” so you shouldn’t feel silly or alone if you’re feeling more anxious than normal.
Employers would be wise to think about how they’re helping their employees cope with mental health conditions in this unusual time.
3 – Easing our anxieties
But how can we ease these anxieties? If we let them develop and spiral, they could lead to long-term mental health problems.
Navlika Ratangee from ICAS explained what happens in the brain when we’re experiencing stress and shared some tips to manage our anxiety. Although the global pandemic has caused social isolation, she said we’re “lucky to be in a time with such developed technology, as this has allowed us to stay connected with each other”.
She also reminded us that an important part of our new lifestyle is to stay productive and to stick to a daily routine – without this we may start to become lost and demotivated, which will only negatively affect our mental wellbeing.
Arguably, though, the most important thing to do is to remain positive. Even during days where we feel at an all-time low, it’s crucial to focus on the things in our lives which bring us happiness and look at this experience as an opportunity to learn new skills.
With the rise in mental health cases connected to COVID-19 and the lack of access to traditional therapies and treatments, employers might consider looking to digital solutions like telemedicine and employee assistance programmes (EAPs) to give their employees an outlet for mental health treatment.
You can watch this insightful webinar in full below.
1 Anon, World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/01-06-2020-covid-19-significantly-impacts-health-services-for-noncommunicable-diseases (sourced September 2020)
2 Anon, Mental Health Foundation, https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/research/coronavirus-mental-health-pandemic/key-statistics-wave-6 (sourced September 2020)