During the challenging months of lockdown, we were reminded of the importance of social connections, working well as a team, and that taking care of our mental health is as important as tending to our physical health during this pandemic. Anshaaf and I were not spared our own anxieties and worry about own families, some of whom did indeed contract the virus, but who thankfully make a full recovery. We too were separated from older relatives and are grateful to be reunited with our mothers while still mindful of the need to wear our masks, sanitise and maintain a physical distance to protect ourselves and others.
I am pleased to report that the majority of the families in the practice did well during lockdown. This was an opportunity to spend time with children, enjoying the time away from mindless hours in the traffic rushing to work or extra-murals and children did step up and get involved in family life and learnt new skills in the home and garden. Parents have a deeper appreciation of the role of good schools and teachers in their children's lives and that ADHD is real.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. I have been asking children and families to reflect on what strategies were useful to survive during lockdown as this insight will be valuable in years ahead. Maintaining a routine, good sleeping habits, regular exercise, maintaining social connections - albeit online with friends, getting back to school, quality time with family members and pets, checking in with therapists, were all mentioned as being helpful.
Sadly, many Adolescents with pre-existing depression have struggled during lockdown. Isolation, loss of access to peers and being restricted to the house has been challenging. Increased awareness of the challenges faced by society has left many teenagers feeling hopeless and overwhelmed and many are presenting with suicidal thoughts. There has also been an increased use of risk-taking behaviour and abuse of cannabis, alcohol and illegal drugs. There is great concern about the impact on their education.
Recognising the increased demand for mental health services, Anshaaf and I have returned to the office to ensure an efficient service. We will resume face to face consultations while adhering to COVID-19 SAFETY precautions. Teleconsults will also remain as an option.
HOSPITAL SAFETY: The Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital and AKESO Milnerton have established COVID-19 Protocols in place. This applies to maintaining the health and safety of all who visit the hospital, protecting health care workers and treating the ill. There are strict screening and infectious control measures in place.
Finally, we would like to take the time to remember "Gogo", a health care worker, who brought her grandson to the practice for years. "Gogo" contracted COVID-19 and passed away. Her determined spirit will always be remembered. We also acknowledge the deaths of relatives of other children in the practice during this challenging time.
The support and camaraderie of my colleagues during this time has been much appreciated. The Jerusalema Challenge captures the spirit of South Africans as we celebrate our endurance and grit. Our work is not done but it is true, we are 'Stronger together".