COVID-19 challenges for workers with mental health issues

ACTIVE: Nadine Davies and Amber Gale demonstrate how they were adhering to COVID-19 requirements and staying positive in the face of adversity.
ACTIVE: Nadine Davies and Amber Gale demonstrate how they were adhering to COVID-19 requirements and staying positive in the face of adversity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a stressful, uncertain time for people across Australia, but for people in the community living with a mental health condition these feelings can be amplified.

One person who knows this first hand is Port Lincoln woman Amber Gale, who gained employment with the Eyre Peninsula Old Folks Home, starting her full time work in February.

Miss Gale, who lives with anxiety, was assisted by employment services provider WISE Employment and would complete her Individual Support in Aged Care Certificate Three at TAFE last year, as well as finishing her work placement.

However Miss Gale said when COVID-19 restrictions started coming into place it became and concerns about requirements for home residents and workers to keep everybody safe.

She said then thoughts turned to those closest to her and whether she should be at home rather than work.

"It was very stressful, especially having just started in the industry," she said.

"It got pretty worrying and with the kids...it came to the point where I thought 'should I go to work or stay home with the children'."

However Miss Gale received support from her coworkers at the home, as well as from WISE Employment who stayed in touch with her.

She said communication was a key part to making it through this uncertain time and she was loving her job at the Old Folks Home which has "very good" safety procedures in place.

As for anyone experiencing overwhelming stress and concerns, possibly exasperated by a mental health condition, she said it was important to "have people around you to talk about it."

"Sometimes its about saying things out loud in many different ways," she said.

WISE Employment business manager Nadine Davies said all clients experienced some form of mental health condition, whether it was diagnosed or not, and have experienced in the current climate of COVID-19 an increase in stress and anxiety, feeling of being unsafe or concern of exposure to the virus, or worries about the future with their employment or their loved ones.

However she said the company has adapted to providing support through regular phone check-ins with clients and employers as well as increased use of technology.

"We have been providing a lot of assistance around understanding changes to industrial relations and the impact this may have on their working conditions, understanding Jobkeeper payments and supporting our clients with their individual concerns and issues," she said.

As for employers, Ms Davies said communication was very important.

"Check in daily with each member of your staff, see how they are going, hold regular meetings, ask probing questions, get their ideas on how to make the workplace safer, show interest in how your staff are coping with these unprecedented times and how that is impacting on their ability to do their work," she said

"If your staff are continuing to struggle as a result of COVID-19 you need to establish why."