Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in mental health concerns as individuals face fear and uncertainty surrounding nearly every aspect of their lives. Healthcare workers on the front lines of this pandemic – whether dealing with COVID patients or, like our team at Wellbridge, working with those impacted mentally and emotionally by the profound changes COVID has brought into our lives – are beginning to recognize the mental health impacts that they themselves have suffered over the past year.
Working conditions in healthcare have been compared to those of a war zone with healthcare workers directly witnessing the effects of the pandemic, including continuous deaths and debilitating secondary conditions. This elongated trauma, combined with the additional traumas we’ve seen in our personal lives during COVID, can severely impact one’s mental health with the possibility of leading to mental health disorders like anxiety, depression and substance use.
Mental Health America conducted a survey among healthcare workers in June – September 2020. The responses were, in my opinion, unsurprising yet highly concerning. The survey reported increased stress, anxiety and exhaustion. Physical symptoms of mental health decline like headaches, changes in appetite, trouble sleeping and stomach aches were reported, as well as both emotional and physical exhaustion.
A survey conducted more recently cited that over 60% off healthcare workers have said that COVID-19 has impacted their mental health. In the same survey, 1 in 5 healthcare workers said that they thought they may need mental health services, but did not receive them.
The mental health dangers of COVID-19 upon our population as a whole were evident early into the pandemic – alcohol sales and overdoses plaguing local hospitals were on the rise. Despite our day-to-day slowly returning to normal, I argue that there are still significant concerns for those working on the frontlines of this pandemic. As things start to slow down, many healthcare workers may just now be recognizing the intense trauma that they experienced in their career in 2020.
Taking care of your own mental health is imperative to be able to properly take care of others.
If you work in the field and have noticed changes in your sleep behavior, heightened anxiety or signs of depression or an increase in your alcohol usage, I encourage you to recognize these as signs you would recognize in your own patients and reach out for help.