Caring for Those Who Care for Us

BY: Neighbors’ Consejo|

The pandemic that we are facing has left psychological repercussions on all populations in the world. Research carried out on mental health shows the negative effects resulting from social isolation, worry or stress experienced during this period and undoubtedly represent a risk for the development of psychological disorders and mental illnesses, a situation that has mostly affected healthcare personnel.

Uncertainty and fear took hold of hospital centers, facing an unknown disease which threatened to end the lives of patients, colleagues, and even family members, compounded by strenuous working hours, it ended up being a trigger for the mental well-being of health personnel.

The job strain and physical exhaustion to which they were exposed during this period showed alarming results, such as those exposed by Mental Health America (MHA) in their survey from June to September of 2020 [1] , in which 93% of healthcare workers  experienced stress, 86% experienced anxiety, 77% reported frustration, 76% reported exhaustion and burnout and 75% said they were overwhelmed.

These figures tend to increase with the passing of days, perhaps due to the demanding working hours and the stigmatization of those who seek mental healthcare, which ends up being ignored. All of the above makes it possible to identify that careers in the health sciences cause professionals to be increasingly exhausted and to present high levels of pre-existing mental health disorders, which could have intensified during the coronavirus emergency, such as stress, depression, anxiety and insomnia [2] .

For this reason, it is important to pay attention to the warning signs in health workers, before they become a serious mental health problem: Feeling irritation, anger or denial, feeling uncertain, nervous or anxious, feeling helpless or powerless, lacking motivation, feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out, feeling sad or depressed, having trouble sleeping and having trouble concentrating [3] .

Here are some tips if you are a health worker to keep your emotional well-being stable [4] : Engage in regular exercise and other restorative activities, spend time with friends and family, identify the things you can and cannot control at work, monitor your inner emotional energy barometer and know when you are running on empty, look for warning signs of burnout and get professional help when needed and protect your boundaries and expect your employer to do the same.

So, how do we take care of those who take care of us? First, eliminate the stigmatization that people have about mental health, and thus get health personnel to accept and seek treatment for their condition; second, promote healthy lifestyles and self-care; and third, have the health system recognize the risks and consequences for its personnel, identifying solutions that include comprehensive working conditions, with adequate remuneration for occupational risk, accompanied with psychological support and proportional work breaks.






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