CARERS struggling with the trauma of caring for people during Covid have developed eating disorders and addiction, a well-being service has revealed.

Frontline workers who risked their own safety throughout the pandemic are feeling the mental and emotional toll.

Carers who were among colleagues in the sector going into homes when the virus was ripping through the community are now turning to therapy for support.

Daily Echo: Lesley Unwin-RoweLesley Unwin-Rowe

Lesley Unwin-Rowe, 63, said her work took a physical and emotional toll and she is now working on post-pandemic recovery.

When the world was beginning to learn more about Covid and how dangerous it was, Lesley told how she felt sick as she walked into a suspected Covid-infected home in the early months of the pandemic.

She told the Echo: “The first time I went into a suspected Covid household, I had no warning beforehand and as I stepped into the house there were various ‘do not enter’ and ‘do you have all of the kit necessary’ signs, and now knowing what to expect, when I walked in, I was shaken.

“I remember being in tears going home and remember walking out of the door that morning feeling physically sick, but I just had to carry on because I knew the patients had no one else to rely on.”

Lesley, who works for Living Well, a Southampton organisation that provides medical care to people in the community, added: “This was at the time when we were hearing this was a life-threatening disease, it was really scary.”

She was struggling with the pressure from the frontline and finally turned to counselling for help.

Lesley said: “Before I would speak against counselling and would say ‘oh why would I need that’ because initially, I thought of that as a failure of myself.

“But when I actually did it I was pleasantly surprised how much better I felt, as it taught me how to deal with things and how to look at things from a different perspective."

She added: “I never thought I would benefit but I really did.”

Being home carers for Living Well, a Southampton organisation that provides medical care to people in the community, she provided home care to patients during the pandemic.

Recent research found between 50 and 60 per cent of women, and 40 and 50 per cent of men in England reported signs of psychological distress from April 2020 to April 2022.

Some care staff have admitted to developing unhelpful mechanisms to cope with the pressure over the pandemic.

Wendy Lee from Options Wellbeing, a charity offering a range of counselling and wellbeing services, said: “Some of our carers have said they had developed unhelpful coping mechanisms, such as an eating disorder or some addiction or turning to alcohol as a form to escape.

"Some others have experienced relationship difficulties.

“Some people avoid getting help because they see that as a failure on themselves which is really distressing for a service like us, so it seems that the pandemic has affected the self-esteem of some people in their job has meant that people’s lives are significantly different.”

Wendy is offering free counselling sessions to care workers who may suffer from post-pandemic issues that have affected the way they live.

She is encouraging people to reach out to find a judgement-free service.

Daily Echo: Rebecca ApplegateRebecca Applegate

Rebecca Applegate, a 32-year-old care worker, said the uncertainty of the first months of the pandemic caused a lot of worry for care staff.

She said: “It was worrying and really hard, especially with the unknown of so many different things, but we had to continue with our day-to-day job as best as we could.”

She added: “A lot of my colleagues suffered with stress more than anything, especially if the customer had Covid and we had to go into their homes and help them.”

Alison Fisher, 41, manager at Living Well, said that the relationship between staff and patients is comparable to that of a family.

Despite the general advice for care staff to maintain distance with patients, carers often find this difficult. Alison said: “If you’re a carer, you’re going to get close”.

She added: “Empathy is key in this role because unless you have it, you can’t see things from other people’s perspective and understand their needs.”

Options Wellbeing is now offering free counselling sessions for care staff who are dealing with post-pandemic stress.

It is part of Social Care in Action (SCiA), which is a not-for-profit group of charitable social enterprises working together to improve health and wellbeing in communities across southern England.

SCiA’s Action Fund helps those that need financial assistance at a grassroots level through grants given to partner organisations such as Options Wellbeing Trust for its Peer Support Network.