Mental health, the other health impact of COVID-19 27 March 2020

Over the last two weeks I have spent a lot of time on the phone with members and our broader network. People working in businesses large and small that are grappling with the implications of COVID-19. And it has got me thinking about how we manage the mental health impacts of the unprecedented, rolling crisis we all find ourselves in.

In most cases the people I am talking to are under unprecedented pressure at work. In a few cases the economic threat to their organisation is immediate and existential. In some cases, the person on the other end of the line has already lost their job, or are afraid they will soon. And everyone is handling all this while they deal with the ructions at home; kids out of school, worries about elderly family members and profound disruption to their regular routine.

It's a perfect storm for spiralling mental health issues. This is a chronic crisis – it's not going to be done in a few weeks. Which is why it's so important we take care of ourselves and each other.

It's obvious stuff, but sometimes it's worth stating the obvious:

  • We need to be on the lookout for signs that we aren't coping personally, and be strong enough to ask for help, in whatever form that takes.
  • We need to look after our colleagues, family and friends. Different people need different things when they are dealing with mental health challenges. But everyone needs someone that is looking out for them. Someone that can see you need a hand a little bit before you do can make all the difference.

Those two things are harder when we are maintaining social distance. We're not necessarily going to have as many ad-hoc opportunities to chat about how we are feeling, or pick up on a signal that someone isn't doing okay. That's exactly why we need to be proactive on this, and keep mental health front and mind.

So our job over the coming weeks and months is not just preventing the spread of a communicable disease, or managing the economic fallout. It is those two things, absolutely. But it's also making sure we support each other psychologically through what is shaping up as one of the most challenging years of our lives.

We're in this together. Remembering that, and remembering to take care of ourselves and each other as we work through the challenges ahead, will make the road a little bit smoother.

If you or someone you know needs support visit Beyond Blue.


Luke Menzel is CEO of the Energy Efficiency CouncilAustralia's industry association for energy management, energy efficiency and demand response. This article originally appeared as a post on Luke Menzel's LinkedIn account.