SANDTON – Among the initial challenges, healthcare workers specifically struggled with being diagnosed with Covid-19 and not knowing much about it.


dr antoinette miric
Dr Antoinette Miric encourages healthcare workers to look after their physical and mental health. (Photo: @DrMiric via Twitter)

Psychologists and psychiatrists have united to assist the front line, one conversation at a time.

In an effort to somewhat alleviate the pressure facing our frontline healthcare workers, a number of psychologists and psychiatrist came together to create the Healthcare Workers Care Network (HWCN).

With over 500 volunteers, this nationwide support network offers all healthcare workers across the public and private sectors free support, resources, training and psycho-education.

It is a collaborative effort by South Africa’s top medical and professional associations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), Mental Health Care for Covid-19 Healthcare Workers Gauteng and the South African Society of Psychiatrists, to name a few.

According to psychiatrist and HWCN co-ordinator Dr Antoinette Miric a group of 14 psychologists and psychiatrists, including herself, tried to figure out how they could support the hardworking healthcare workers in South Africa after seeing what was going on all around the world.

“We decided to start up something that would offer some mental health support to healthcare workers and also offer training and education to leaders in healthcare to assist the healthcare workers who work underneath them,” she explained.

“The response has been positive because the thing is healthcare workers are always so busy, they don’t have the time to reach out or alternatively only reach out when they have a crisis.”

Thus far, more than 200 people have reached out for individual counselling, providing over 300 hours of free counselling nationally. The network has also carried out training to over 4 000 attendees.

Miric said that among the initial challenges, healthcare workers specifically struggled with being diagnosed with Covid-19 and not knowing much about it.

There was a lot of anxiety and panic around testing positive themselves and as the lockdown progressed, the network had people reaching out in crises. “I think it is the combination of the accumulative effort of all the stresses adding up – stressing about themselves, their patients, their colleagues, and even stressing about bringing the virus home to their families.

“My biggest advice [for healthcare workers] is that this is a marathon, you need to look after yourself emotionally and physically. It is really important to get into a structure where your life has a little more balance especially now that we are coming down off of the second wave.”

She noted that there is a concern for the third wave but now is the perfect opportunity for healthcare workers start mentally and physically preparing themselves.

“Take this time to take a break, take some time off work, spend time with family and if they need extra support, they can reach out to the network.”

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