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Emily Bixler (left) and Rachael Cooper
Our healthcare workers are resilient. They have to be; day in and day out they see people at their absolute worst. They are trained to manage medical emergencies, act quickly in times of crisis and stay steady regardless of the circumstances.
What they’re not trained for is this pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic tests resiliency in ways healthcare workers have not experienced. The number of ill and climbing death counts are unseen in this generation. Lack of PPE and other resources plays a larger role than it ever has before. Patients are passing away alone while healthcare workers facilitate good-byes via FaceTime or video chat. Colleagues are getting ill and may die. Couple the stress of battling this virus head-on at work with individual concerns of food, shelter and income insecurities – mental and emotional resiliency will be stretched thin. Compassion fatigue may set in.
For those healthcare and other frontline workers who have pre-existing mental health conditions, or who are battling substance use disorders, this may be especially difficult. We already know that “addiction is a disease of isolation,” so it’s expected that rates of substance misuse will increase. The mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to be seen for weeks, months and years to come.
It’s important to remember that everyone will experience these effects differently, and that their recovery will differ as well. Here are some recommendations healthcare and other frontline workers can use to manage their mental health:
Prior studies have found the prevalence of mental health problems in disaster-affected populations to be two to three times higher than that of the general population. If you or your co-workers begin to show any of the following, please reach out and seek help, as these can be signs of a long-term condition:
Remember, there is nothing stronger than admitting you need help. Know you are never alone. We #SafetySalute all of you. Thank you for keeping all of us safe.
If you or a loved one are experiencing severe mental health distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) to talk with someone now.
Visit NSC.org/Coronavirus for more resources.
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