I wanted to pass on this image (from Twitter by Victor Tseng) that was shared with me by a medical colleague – it’s important. Many of us are thinking ahead now in terms of the ‘coming waves’ of COVID. I have certainly been very mindful of a future wave of mental health problems in patients of all descriptions, those predisposed and already vulnerable, as well as those for whom it may be unprecedented. As my wonderful wise colleague, Kate Worsfold pointed out, it’s important to be anxious to some extent right now because anxiety is a protective mechanism to ensure our survival. So during this time, the anxiety drives us to wash our hands more often and more thoroughly (at last, we’re mastering basic hygiene!) and socially distance ourselves and these are constructive, reactive behaviours, right? But of course for others, it may trigger or provoke destructive emotional and mental states and for some of these will be the result of new hardship (economic, relationship, occupational etc). We are perhaps seeing some of the early increase already, but according to the diagram above, it is the ‘4th wave’ and its true peak will be reached after all the others.
This image also speaks to the ‘3rd wave’ which will result from people putting their (very real) health needs on hold, right now…indefinitely.
No one wants to visit the doctor right now, (that’s not an insult to all my lovely doctor friends…you know exactly what I mean), patients are avoiding getting their blood tests, and aren’t maintaining continuity of care with all sorts of health professionals and therefore, interrupted care of chronic health conditions is certainly at hand.
We all know someone making these choices right now, I’m certain. Elderly family members, our own patients, even, perhaps, ourselves…all concerned about placing ‘unnecessary burden’ on the already burdened health care system. But in each scenario we need to do a quick risk-benefit analysis: what are the risks of letting chronic care lapse, or new possible acute presentations be triaged by Google instead of the ER? Yes one of my patients with a suspected fracture even, has held back and home-diagnosed! Versus what are the risks of presenting for assessment or for ongoing management and monitoring if you apply due diligence in terms of hygiene etc. And from what I understand, the medical clinics in most areas with low COVID case numbers have ample appointments available and have everything in place to protect patients and their workers. They know the risks more than anyone – both of COVID19 AND of everything beyond (COVID) being ignored and their doors are open! And of course so are those of the nats, the nuts, the herbalists etc – just now often virtual doors rather than those found among bricks and mortar.
We all need to encourage and be encouraged to not drop the baton of better health.
Because we can not be certain of when this will change and our health should not be left on hold.
One good thing to spread widely right now…pardon the pun 😉
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