Saint John of God Hospital has launched an online therapy programme for people struggling with their mental health as a direct consequence of COVID-19 and the impact of associated restrictions.
The hospital has seen an increase in admissions and referrals from new and existing patients who are struggling with mood and anxiety disorders, addictions and issues relating to severe social isolation and relationship tensions with up to 50% of admissions and referrals since May 2020 related to COVID-19 anxiety and restrictions. Acute work-related stress has also seen a number of healthcare workers being admitted to the hospital.
Living Well in the New Normal is a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy based programme which has been designed and written by Dr Keith Gaynor, senior clinical psychologist, author and academic.
Dr Gaynor said: “Normally, anxiety management courses have the message that we are too anxious and that the risks we face are small. In the middle of this international health emergency, it is clear that this isn’t true. The risks are real and very serious. If we haven’t been impacted medically, then we probably have been affected economically or socially. We must create new ways of understanding ourselves in this New Normal”.
The online programme is part of a number of ways the hospital has established to support new and current patients during this time. Virtual clinics and virtual day care packages of care for patients who are particularly at risk, such as eating disorders and other particularly vulnerable patient groups, have been established.
Chief executive of the hospital, Emma Balmaine said: “We have felt compelled to design and deliver appropriate interventions aimed at providing substantial responses to the intense pressure that COVID-19 restrictions continue to place on people. We are fortunate to have specialist and committed clinicians who have risen to this challenge and who are delivering creative and responsive therapeutic responses. We are seeing that such responses are absolutely necessary and we expect that demand for our services will intensify in the months ahead as many aspects of life stabilise and the country continues to reopen. Additional planning has been necessary to ensure that Saint John of God Hospital is in a position to respond to the mental health needs of our patients at this time.
“Current admission patterns suggest that those who have long standing mental health issues may need increased support at this time, but we are also seeing a lot of new referrals from people experiencing mental health challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.”