Health Care Workers Face Increasing Mental Health Challenges
COVID-19 has touched the lives of everyone, but it has had more of a dramatic impact on some groups more than others. Among the hardest-hit groups are health care workers. Even in pre-pandemic times, health care workers have to deal with significant stressors, but the pandemic has placed extraordinary demands on most of them. For example, studies from China have found that initial health care responders have experienced major increases in depression, anxiety, insomnia and the fear of workplace violence.
In addition to these stressors, a powerful stigma remains around mental health issues. About one in five American adults experience some kind of mental illness, yet these conditions are misunderstood by many, including those in the health care field. In fact, health care workers may be subject to an even greater stigma if they admit to mental health struggles, or seek help for their struggles. This may be one reason for the high incidence of burnout and suicide among workers.
The first line of defense is to use strategies to manage and lessen the stress health care workers face. Measures to take could include prioritizing sleep, eating a nutritious diet and exercising consistently. Physical activity is a stress-reducer and mood-enhancer. Avoid turning to alcohol or drugs for stress management. Try reframing by focusing on what you are grateful for or mindfulness techniques to help reset your mood and outlook. The accompanying resource provides additional statistics about mental health in health care workers and potentially effective management techniques.
Graphic created by Mozzaz.