Even before the CoVID-19 pandemic, the high prevalence of burnout had been widely reported. Since then, many interventions have taken place to address burnout and to promote wellness, – including decreased workload, improved work schedules, electronic health record, mindfulness (including mindfulness-base-stress-reduction [MBSR]), and personal coaching.
Burn out is a series of worn-out responses to coping with stress and frustration, which may cause dysfunctional states of performance and affectual levels, consequently requiring external support or environmental changes to recover to previously functioning levels.
With the outbreak of the CoVID-19 pandemic, burnout levels have increased, due to self-isolation and staff shortages across different workplaces. Self-isolation reduces individuals’ interaction with others, which in turn can affect individuals’ mental health, as they are deprived of maintaining relationships with others and of obtaining the external support that they need for resilience. Thus, it becomes essential to recognize the importance of telehealth services as feasible and appropriate means for supporting individuals, their families, and health care providers during these times of pandemic (Montero-Marín, & García-Campayo, 2010; Brill, 1984; Fessell, & Cherniss, 2020; Shaw, 2020; Zhou, Snoswell, Harding, Bambling, Edirippulige, Bai, & Smith, 2020).
Telemedicine includes the practice of health care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of medical data and education using interactive audio, video or data communications.
While social isolation and distancing contributes to avoiding the spread of CoVID-19, it also reduces access to social support from family and friends, and it may cause loneliness, anxiety, and depressive symptoms. These psychological symptoms in turn, may have long-term health effects; thus, economically also requiring their treatment to be added to the cost burden of managing CoVID-19. The psychological impact of CoVID-19 has been globally recorded, including anxiety-driven panic buying and paranoia about attending community events. In addition, students, workers, and tourists who have been prevented from accessing their schools, workplaces, and homes, respectively, have experienced challenges in their mental health due to stress, reduced autonomy and concerns about income, job, and security. Therefore, it is crucial that the global public health services addressing CoVID-19 address both, physical and psychological needs of the general population as well as health care providers; thus making it likely that the provision of telehealth will help clients maintain psychological well-being and help manage their physical and mental health symptoms more favourably (Zhou, Snoswell, Harding, Bambling, Edirippulige, Bai, & Smith, 2020).
Because the necessary mental health services need to be made in the context of client-provider isolation, it becomes of utmost importance that telehealth be encouraged in these times of pandemic. The expansion of telehealth would reduce the risk of exposure to CoVID-19-infected people, by reducing in-person contact between individuals and their health care providers, between individuals in waiting rooms and commonly used clinic areas (such as toilets), and between individuals during their commute to mental health clinics. Telehealth can also be used more extensively to enhance the psychoeducation and promotion of self-help for symptoms of burnout, depression, anxiety, and PTSD during CoVID-19 outbreak (Liu, Yang, Zhang, Xiang, Liu, Hu, & Zhang, 2020; Zhou, Snoswell, Harding, Bambling, Edirippulige, Bai, & Smith, 2020).
Moreover, examples of and evidence to support the effectiveness of telehealth are quite robust, especially in the context of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Videoconferencing, online forums, smartphone apps, text-messaging, and e-mails have been shown to be useful means of communication for the delivery of mental health services (e.g. García‐Lizana, & Muñoz‐Mayorga, 2010; Rees, & Maclaine, 2015; Turgoose, Ashwick, & Murphy, 2018; Backhaus, Agha, Maglione, Repp, Ross, Zuest, Rice-Thorp, Lohr, & Thorp, 2012; Kerst, Zielasek, & Gaebel, 2020; Kerst, Zielasek, & Gaebel, 2020; Kauer, Mangan, & Sanci, 2014; Torniainen-Holm, Pankakoski, Lehto, Saarelma, Mustonen, Joutsenniemi, & Suvisaari, 2016; Zhou, Snoswell, Harding, Bambling, Edirippulige, Bai, & Smith, 2020).
Despite reports of people in isolation actively seeking online support to address mental health needs, telehealth has still been restricted to special needs groups, leaving the wider population without appropriate access to it. While there is growing awareness of mortality rates associated with CoVID-19, we should also consider its impact on people’s mental health—both in the short- and in the long-term. In conclusion, telehealth services are perfectly suited to our present pandemic situation, by supporting both physical and psychosocial needs of both community members and health care providers who are at increased risk for burn out at this time, independent of their geographical location, without increasing risk of infection (Liu, Yang, Zhang, Xiang, Liu, Hu, & Zhang, 2020; Zhou, Snoswell, Harding, Bambling, Edirippulige, Bai, & Smith, 2020).
To finalize, the following is a non-exhaustive list of tasks that individuals can engage in to prevent burnout and to promote self-care during our present pandemic times, provided by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2020):
- Minimize watching, reading, or listening to news about CoVID-19 that causes anxiety or distress. Seek information from trusted sources, such as the WHO website and local health authority platforms to avoid rumours and use it for taking practical steps to protect yourself and your loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, maximum once or twice per day.
- Be supportive of others. Assisting others with their needs can benefit both the person being assisted and the helper. For example, you may check by telephone on neighbours or people in your community who may need some additional support. Working together as a community can help create solidarity in addressing CoVID-19 together.
- Surround yourself with positive and hopeful stories and images of people who have experienced CoVID-19 and were successful; for example, stories of people who have recovered or who have supported a loved one and are willing to share their experience.
- Stay connected and maintain your social networks via telephone, e-mail, social media, or video conference. Also, try as much as possible to keep your daily routines or to create new routines for yourself in case your situation has changed.
- Attend to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines, and eat healthy.
BSc. Psych.,BAHons, MSc. Clinical Psych.
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