Telehealth, which are virtual appointments conducted over the phone or through video conferencing services like FaceTime, Zoom or WhatsApp, are breaking through in the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
In Australia, people are able to access bulk-billed telehealth consultations with their doctors and many other health professionals from Monday (March 30). The Australian Government allocated an extra $1.1 billion funding to achieve telehealth services after consultation with a magnitude of health bodies aimed to provide continued access to essential primary health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January 2019, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) aimed to make telehealth and telemedicine a standard of care in five years – a policy that the NHS stated could save 500,000 lives.
Gidget Foundation Australia has already moved all support services to telehealth and developed a new range of online resources in response to escalating concerns about the emotional impact of COVID-19 on expectant and new parents.
Our new COVID-19 SUPPORT site provides the latest information for expectant and new parents in regard to accessing our telehealth services and taking care of your emotional wellbeing. #COVID19Aus #PNDA #mentalhealth https://t.co/71iJdX0eq5 pic.twitter.com/uAL57GlbkL
— Gidget Foundation (@GidgetFndation) March 30, 2020
The experience of perinatal depression and anxiety, along with other mental health problems, is even harder during these uncertain times of COVID-19. However, while the community at large is isolating, Gidget Foundation Australia is staying more connected than ever.
Gidget Foundation Australia support services are actually experiencing significantly increased demand from vulnerable expectant and new parents who need help during these testing times.
In response to the fast-paced health authority updates, all face-to-face support was moved to telehealth from Monday, 16 March. Every single pre-booked face-to-face psychology appointment has been carried out via video as a result. This is how the foundation will continue to deliver support services until the coronavirus contagion eases.
Gidget Foundation Australia CEO, Arabella Gibson, said that the foundation is working tirelessly to ensure that vulnerable parents in need are able to access the support they need at this uncertain time.
“Expectant and new parents can feel a sense of isolation at the best of times, the COVID-19 outbreak has heightened anxiety levels in a way that has not been seen before. Moving all of our support to telehealth means that we can utilise our pre-existing Start Talking telehealth service to help more parents in need, by offering free psychology support at a mutually suitable time from the safety of home.
“Never has there been a more important time for us all to come together and rally around those who need our care, kindness and compassion most. Isolating at home can exacerbate anxiety and the feeling of isolation that is common in new parents.”
Visits to the foundation’s website have increased by over 50% on the same time period last year, as anxious expectant and new parents are seeking information and support in this unprecedented global health crisis. Connection, kindness and reliable information is essential to lessen the impact of anxiety on expectant and new parents. A new microsite has been created to centralise all of the foundation’s COVID-19 resources, new fact sheets, links and access to its free telehealth service.
Gidget Foundation Australia Clinical Team Manager and psychologist, Christine Barnes, said that due to COVID-19, anxiety and stress is on the rise for many people.
“It is normal that when we feel threatened, we can experience a range of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that might be uncomfortable. Accessing accurate information and appropriate support is essential to lower the amount of distress you may be feeling,” Barnes said.
There are a range of evidence-based ways that expectant and new parents can reduce COVID-19 related anxiety and stress:
- Stay connected to family and friends using alternate contact methods
such as phone and video calls
- Minimise exposure to news and social media as well as limiting content to reputable sources
- Keep routine in each day as much as possible and make time for something
enjoyable at home
- Practice stretching, breathing and mindfulness exercises
- Look at bedtime rituals and limit screen time in the hour before bed
- Do something for others, acts of kindness are beneficial to both parties
- Reach out for help and support
- Contact your GP or other health professionals to discuss any emotional wellbeing issues and concerns