You can see them all over social media – thank you messages for the medical professionals who have been caring for patients affected by COVID-19. From frontline doctors and nurses to countless allied health workers to support staff such as environmental and food service workers – all have felt the negative impact of this crisis.
But while health care workers have been fighting a global pandemic, many are also fighting a more personal battle: their own mental health issues.
Stress, lack of sleep, demanding schedules, and struggles with work/life balance represented common challenges for health care workers prior to COVID-19. The pandemic not only intensified these challenges, it added fear of exposure and becoming sick, anger and frustration over insufficient resources to fight the pandemic, isolation from family, trauma and grief over the continued loss of life, and even, sometimes, “harassment from the community for enforcing strict protective measures to reduce the spread of the virus.”
Now, as states are beginning to open back up, organizations from the American Medical Association to the Joint Commission are recommending ways to effectively help health care workers cope. Some of these recommendations are self-care strategies while others are organization-wide practices. Regardless, they are all aimed at helping a psychologically at-risk workforce.
Most recommendations focus on action steps to reduce stress, increase a sense of control, and build a support system that can help mitigate mental health issues brought on by the COVID crisis. When implemented in stages according to workers’ needs – and complemented by expert intervention – they become what psychiatrist Jessica Gold refers to as “a comprehensive and multifaceted” approach to behavioral health care.
Preventive Care: What Managers Can Do
Self-Care: What Health Care Workers Can Do
Acute Care: In-the-Moment Resources
Treatment: Removing Barriers to Care
Even after the coronavirus crisis passes, stress, anxiety and uncertainty can and will continue. Healthcare workers will need ongoing access to strategies, resources, and support, offered within a framework that prioritizes their mental and emotional well-being.
Note: This article represents a compilation of information published by others and does not constitute medical advice, a mental health diagnosis or treatment recommendation. It is presented for educational purposes only. Always seek the care of a mental health professional for any mental health concerns. If you are in crisis, contact your local crisis support line or call 911.