The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, all around the world, in some way, shape, or form. Healthcare workers in particular are experiencing an incredible amount of anxiety, stress, depression, and insomnia from the pandemic. They are no stranger to high-stress work environments, but this pandemic has taken the meaning of the word stress to a whole new level. Healthcare workers are our front line of defense, protecting us from the virus that has plagued so many. Their mental health is of utmost importance because without them we would all be left exposed to this devastating virus.
COVID cases create burnout and PTSD
The rising number of Covid-19 cases has caused health care workers to suffer from burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sadly, there are even cases of doctors and nurses who took their own life trying to manage this crisis.
Healthcare workers are under a lot of stress from extreme workloads, difficult decisions, and risks of becoming infected or spreading the virus to their loved ones. According to an article published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, they are also experiencing limited resources, longer shifts, occupational hazards from constantly being exposed to Covid-19, disruptions to work-life balance and sleep, and even constantly witnessing the death of patients. All these factors are contributing to the rise in mental fatigue, stress, anxiety, PTSD, and burnout.
Reports from the United Nations say that 47 percent of health-care workers are reporting a need for psychological support. 50 percent of healthcare workers in China are reporting experiencing depression, 45 percent are experiencing anxiety, and 34 percent are suffering from insomnia. There is a large need for mental health support all around the world for healthcare workers.
Free resources for healthcare workers
Mental Health America provides free resources for healthcare workers as well as ways to cope with stress, burnout, and death. Some of these resources include a list of freebies for nurses during the COVID-19, information on project N95 to buy personal protective equipment or medical supplies, information on how to cope and overcome empathy burnout, and resources to connect healthcare workers with licensed mental health professionals. A lot of healthcare workers are experiencing anxiety. This website provides tools and information on anxiety such as education, medication, and calming exercises. Also, a lot of parents are healthcare workers. The website provides resources to help parents during this time as well.
The Virginia Department of Health published a Covid-19 Mental Health Resources For First Responders. This website offers information on summer camp activities for first responders children, live support chats, webinars, educational resources, hotlines, smartphone apps, video therapy, local support boards, and information on exercise and nutrition as well as entertainment. These resources can be used to help healthcare workers manage stress during the pandemic response.
Doctors and nurses are notorious for taking care of everyone else’s physical health, but what about their emotional health? The Covid-19 pandemic has left them with little time to care for themselves because they are so busy caring for everyone else. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discussed ways to take care of your emotional health. One method to cope with a disaster such as the pandemic is to take care of your body. This can be done through eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The article also mentioned taking breaks. During times like today doctors and nurses are overwhelmed with their extreme workloads. Trying to make time to take a break is necessary to unwind. Taking deep breaths and engaging in activities that bring you joy can help you relax.
The CDC also published Emergency Responders: Tips for taking care of yourself. This is a great resource for healthcare workers because it discusses burnout and secondary traumatic stress. Burnout happens when a person feels extremely exhausted and overwhelmed. Secondary traumatic stress is the body’s stress reaction and resulting symptoms from being exposed to another person’s traumatic experience. The article mentioned coping techniques as well as signs of burnout and signs of secondary traumatic stress.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) published A Guide to Managing Stress in Crisis Response Professionals. This is a very useful guide for healthcare workers because it discusses common stress reactions, ways to minimize stress, ways to self-monitor for signs of stress as many other useful tips. This enables healthcare workers to self-monitor themself for signs of stress that if left untreated can result in burnout.
The guide mentioned that one common behavioral reaction to stress is to engage in substance use or abuse such as drugs or alcohol. Sometimes healthcare workers might turn to maladaptive coping methods to drown out their emotions and stress. In the event that someone has developed a drug or alcohol addiction, drug rehab facilities can provide education, treatment, as well as support from trained medical and mental health professionals to overcome their addiction.