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The mental toll of COVID-19

COVID-19 is an inflammatory disease – but it can also take a psychological toll. ER24 counsellors are on standby to help you manage the effects of dealing with stress, uncertainty and anxiety.

“We can’t get away from it. We are constantly aware of the fact that our working environment isn’t safe – nor is our home life.” These are the words of ER24’s national trauma coordinator, Adriaan Grobler, who’s had firsthand experience on how the current pandemic has placed a premium on our normal habits and has added extra pressure to every aspect of our lives.

“There are always underlying concerns about contamination and transmission, and we know that it’s simply not business as usual,” he says. “Life will never be the same again – we have to formulate a new way of life which, in time, will become the norm. In the meantime, we have to be super alert and super cautious.”

This effect on our mental health is unsurprising. “It is an invisible threat that is everywhere. We don’t know how to treat it, and there is no vaccination – these aspects are creating havoc with our mental wellness.”

ER24 offers professional counselling. “We have a trauma team of three counsellors – one of each in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, plus 29 locums across the country,” Grobler explains. “These are all qualified trauma counsellors or counselling psychologists.”

All ER24 counsellors are accredited with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) or the Council for Counsellors in South Africa (CCSA) and undergo regular mid-career training and development throughout the year.

“Remember that prevention can ease the need for intervention when it comes to your mental health,” says Grobler. “As symptoms tend to grow over time and require higher levels of treatment, it is preferable to seek professional help and to deal with issues before they become more severe.”

A trained ER24 counsellor will help you concentrate on what you can control as we manage the COVID-19 pandemic, such as personal hygiene and self-care. They might also suggest that instead of constantly absorbing the news, you allocate a specific time in the day to do that. “Ensuring you get enough sleep and exercise is also important for your mental health – and you should also take care not to withdraw from people close to you,” says Grobler.

ER24 counsellors are not therapists, which means they are not able to prescribe medication, and you will typically only have up to four sessions. They are trained to assist you in unpacking and diffusing stressful events and can help you return to normal functioning levels. “A gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure,” says Grobler. “Make sure you ask for help if you think you need it.”