Wellbeing in times of Covid-19
The World Health Organisation defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’. As the Global TB Caucus works to accelerate progress against the global TB epidemic, we understand the ways in which physical illnesses can also impact mental and social wellbeing.
TB patients often face overwhelming amounts of stigma and discrimination in society, leading to many losing their relationships, education and income. Due to this stigma and the infectious nature of the disease, loneliness and isolation regularly occurs. Treatment expenses can lead to anxiety or increased levels of poverty, and the side effects of TB drugs can leave many patients with permanent physical, psychiatric, neurological, visual and auditory impairments.
Covid-19 also brings with it significant concerns about wellbeing. People suffering from pre-existing mental health issues could be finding this period of uncertainty difficult and challenging, while the constant news coverage and change to everyday life will be affecting everyone. Stigma and discrimination has also been prevalent, and lockdowns across the world could be increasing feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as financial concerns.
It’s clear that there are significant overlaps between the mental health impacts of both TB and Covid-19, and that wellbeing during this time should be prioritised amongst everyone.
The Global TB Caucus secretariat
At the Global TB Caucus, the majority of the Secretariat are used to working remotely; the team is constantly spread across the world, and online meetings are the norm for us. Despite this, we have introduced a number of measures and changes in order to look after our mental wellbeing internally during these challenging times. These include:
1. A dedicated Wellbeing conversation channel
This has enabled us to entrench and prioritise the concept of wellbeing into our everyday work, while further normalising such conversations.
We use this channel to share helpful resources, information and articles, as well as ideas about how to improve our wellbeing support process.
We have also been sharing personal advice and tips, including our different exercise routines, music and arts recommendations.
2. Encouraging work/life balance
This is something that we have always been keen to encourage within the Secretariat, however it is increasingly important now that more people are working from home. Working within your home can blur the boundaries between work life and home life, resulting in both unproductivity, or working too hard!
Regular breaks throughout the day, not changing our core working hours too much, always making time for a total break over lunch, and continuing to take annual leave through this period are helping to retain a sense of work/life balance.
3. Increased communication
We have regular catch-ups between the whole team and on a one-on-one level, which is even more important currently.
We have been discussing introducing more social, non-work-related calls to uplift everyone’s mood and stay connected in multiple ways.
Recognising that as well as Covid-19 is impacting our work on TB, we are all personally involved and affected. Life has changed very suddenly for everyone in similar but also very different ways depending on where we live in the world. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and it is important to acknowledge this.