Mental health 'damaged' in majority of Scottish coronavirus carers

The government’s key coronavirus message is ingrained in the mind of everyone in the country now: "Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives."

Protecting social care has not been part of that message so far, but the data tells us just how badly this sector needs to be protected.

The National Records of Scotland have now been able to confirm a quarter of Scottish coronavirus deaths have been in care homes.

A new survey shown exclusively to ITV News on Friday reveals another layer to the devastating impact of Covid-19, this time on the mental health of carers.

The survey, commissioned by the GMB Scotland trade union, asked almost 1,000 people who work in the social care sector about their mental health.

Responses came from people who work in residential care and home care, covering both public and private sector employers.

Four in every five carers said their mental health has already been damaged by their work. The same number said they have not been offered mental health support by their employer.

  • "We have a longer term duty to make sure the support and the care and the mental health support is there for people who have done so much to help steer us through this." Scotland's First Minister says there should be greater mental health support for key coronavirus workers.

Right now, carers are having to watch people they have got to know - people some carers refer to as their ‘second family’ - die suddenly.

This is not that unusual - some might accept it as part of the job. However, these carers now have the additional burden of guilt. They are left wondering if they are the ones who carried the virus into their work in the first place and passed it on to these vulnerable people.

They can then only watch in horror when coronavirus tears through a care home of elderly people.

This is fertile territory for leaving these care workers with PTSD in the not-so-distant future.

  • Scotland's Health Secretary Jeane Freeman hopes that by next week she will be able to say "a great deal more" about the support that will put in place for care workers.

On top of this, three quarters of carers said they feared for their own safety, with 84% worried about taking the virus home to their own family.

Even after all the talk of extra Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for care workers, three in every five are still stressed about the lack of PPE in their work.

All of this stress and worry and grief builds up. The unbearable toll on the mental health of our care workers is now clear, and yet more than half of those surveyed said they cannot get time away from a shift to access urgent help for their mental health when they need it.

The carers I have spoken to say these mental health issues are a ticking time-bomb. Evidence shows that early intervention makes a huge difference when it comes to bereavement counselling and treatment for PTSD.

And yet these same people we are relying on to care for our society’s most vulnerable say the help is just not there for them when they need it most.