Outlining the phases of the emotional landscape
Dr Kym Jenkins is Chair of the Council of Presidents of Medical Colleges, immediate past-President of the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), Chair of the Migrant and Refugee Health Partnership and Board Director at Mental Health Australia.
In March this year my colleagues Karen Gaunson, Margie Stuchbery, Brett McDermott and I joined together to work out how we, as a group of experienced mental health clinicians, could best contribute during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Along with other initiatives, this led to the formation of the #MindingCovid writing group. Our goal was to produce resources that offered explanation and understanding of possible psychological responses to COVID-19 in a manner that is accessible to all healthcare workers, irrespective of levels of previous knowledge or familiarity with the concepts explained.
The first of these documents, Minding healthcare workers was predominantly the work of Margie Stuchbery, and is aimed at ‘unpacking’ the range of emotions likely to be experienced by healthcare workers in response to a disaster, but more particularly how these may be different in times of pandemic.
The paper outlines the phases of the emotional landscape during COVID-19, the journey through the pandemic:
- Impact – where there is disbelief and anticipatory anxiety
- Heroic – increased activity, greater comradery and a focus on “getting the task done”
- Disillusionment – where there is a shift to feeling exhausted or overwhelmed and emotional low points predominate
- Restructuring or recovery – where emotional wellbeing is (slowly) restored and life/work becomes meaningful again
This paper also stresses the risks and vulnerability that come from isolation as opposed to the value of social connectedness with family, colleagues, teams and professional supports. The paper ends with a set of ‘ammeters’ where readers can gauge how they are travelling during the pandemic across dimensions such as self-care, regulation of emotions and levels of compassion.
Recognise feelings in yourself and talking to colleagues
The #MindingCovid writing group has produced two further documents:
Again, these are explained and delivered in a way that we hope is meaningful to all healthcare workers. We also offer some reflections on how to recognise these feelings in yourself and suggestions on how to have that difficult conversation with a colleague who may be seen to be struggling.
All are welcome to register for a special online event facilitated by Associate Professor Lesley Stafford, clinical psychologist at The Women’s and featuring presentations from experts who will explore the emotional needs and responses of healthcare workers during a public health crisis.