Health care workers suffering mental health strain – “We need your help!”
“I literally cried on my way home – to work, I cried… People would die in front of you then you must just be okay. And then the next person comes in that same bed, but you haven’t even mourned that previous patient yet. It was scary. It was beyond scary.”
These are the heart wrenching words of Sr Laeeka Philander, one of the many health care workers facing mental health strain, depression, and heightened anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sr Philander works in the COVID-19 High Care Unit at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.
Listen to Laeeka Philander:
Lee-Shay Chindikano is a porter at the same hospital. She started just before the COVID-19 pandemic and describes the anxiety she feels on a daily basis when wheeling the sickest patients to the COVID high care and ICU: “We don’t know what happens next. We don’t know if this patient is going to make it. We don’t know if we are taking this virus home with us. We don’t know if we are even going to see tomorrow.”
Listen to Lee-Shay Chindikano:
“When you leave work you don’t really separate from what you’ve done. You still carry everything that you’ve seen, everything that you’ve done with you when you get home,” explains Professional Nurse Sadick Swartz. He is the Operational Manager of the Speciality ICU at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Listen to Sadick Swartz:
“COVID-19 made me emotional because I can’t go to my family. I haven’t seen my family due to COVID-19. I don’t want to expose my family to COVID-19 and I just really miss them,” says a teary-eyed Aqeelah Kelderman, EMS practitioner.
Listen to Aqeelah Kelderman:
As we celebrated World Mental Health Day, an international day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against social stigma, on 10 October 2021, we acknowledge the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our health care workers in the Western Cape.
Health care workers, the backbone of the health care system, are perilously close to burning out and without them the health care system would crumble.
While there are internal measures in place to support health care workers in the Western Cape, they have made a call to the public to help and support them through this challenging time.
When asked how the public could support the health care workers, a call to vaccinate was the most popular. “The thing we can do to protect ourselves and everybody else is to actually if everybody gets vaccinated so we can eradicate this pandemic,” says Rajendra Laljith, EMS paramedic and shift leader.
Listen to Rajendra Laljith:
According to the World Health Organization, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a considerable impact on people’s mental health across the globe. Close to one billion people have a mental disorder and anyone, anywhere, can be affected. Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression.
With one in every 100 deaths is by suicide, it is the fourth leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29 years globally.
If you, or someone you know, are showing signs of mental health challenges, including depression, burnout, or mental distress, please reach out.
South African Depression and Anxiety Group:
Suicidal Emergency contact: 0800 567 567
24hr Helpline: 0800 456 789