Updated: Mar 28, 2021
3 Steps to Helping Hurting Healers: Mental Health Workers, Nurses, and Doctors Hurt too.
Photo by Jane Boyd on Unsplash
An article published in The Lancet by Mehta et al., (2021) stated “Sadly, health-care workers have also faced many additional—often avoidable—sources of stress and anxiety, and long shifts combined with unprecedented population restrictions, including personal isolation, have affected individuals' ability to cope.” But, there are steps they can take to heal.
Do you have nights when you just can't fall asleep? Have you experienced feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety? Are you embarrassed by these feelings and do not know where to turn? You are not alone.
As a Licensed Professional Counselor, Clinical Supervisor, Counselor Educator, wife, mother, and daughter, emotional pain is no stranger to me. The pandemic, racial, social, and political unrest left us all feeling the pain 2020 ushered in. That being said, helpers like patient care workers, nurses, mental health workers, and doctors are being pushed beyond their limits in ways many of us have never experienced before. This is not due to an underlining deficiency with the healers. A lack of leadership, resources, infrastructure, and many other reasons played a role in the collective pain we all are feeling, especially our healers.
3 Steps to Helping Hurting Healers
Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem
A wise person near and dear to my heart once said, "it is okay to be profoundly sad for a profoundly sad situation." His words couldn't be more timely and true than during a time when our nation and the world have lost so many loved ones due to Covid-19. On top of that, we had to isolate ourselves from the people we love the most at a time when we needed them the most. We couldn't celebrate our milestones or grieve our losses in ways we were accustomed to. Hurting people and frustrated people were faced with racial trauma, job loss, divisive politics, and expressed that hurt and frustration in the only way they knew how. All the while, our healthcare workers, who were experiencing the mass trauma with us, were not afforded the opportunity to stop, pause, process, or heal. People's lives depended on them being present and ready to work regardless of what they were experiencing in their personal lives. Yes, healer, the physical exhaustion, emotional, and psychological pain you are feeling is real, and it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Step 2: Normalize and Destigmatize
Pappa et al. (2021) conducted a meta-analysis including 13 studies and over 33,000 participants. Their study suggests that a substantial number of healthcare workers experience sleep and mood disturbances during the pandemic. Again, it makes sense to feel profoundly sad in profoundly sad situations. You are not alone. Many of your colleagues are experiencing what you are feeling and are unsure what to do about it. There is hope and help out there waiting for you.
Step 3: Reach Out for Help
Believe it or not, there are resources all around you. If you live in Michigan, I am here to help. Reach out to me by going to my contact page. For those of you who are not located in Michigan, or if you live in Michigan, but you are not sure if I am the help you need, the following link is a list of resources from the CDC to help you get back to feeling like yourself.
So many people are hurting due to the mass trauma we are all collectively facing. It is important to remember that mental health workers, nurses, and doctors are hurting too. Thankfully, there are things we can do to help ease the pain. First, we have to acknowledge that there is a problem. Second, you are not alone. It is not strange or odd to be sad, angry, frustrated, or anxious during these unprecedented times. Third, reach out. Help is just a click away.
Mehta, S., Machado, F., Kwizera, A., Papazian, L., Moss, M., Azoulay, É., & Herridge, M. (2021). COVID-19: a heavy toll on health-care workers. The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Pappa, S., Ntella, V., Giannakas, T., Giannakoulis, V. G., Papoutsi, E., & Katsaounou, P. (2020). Prevalence of depression, anxiety, and insomnia among healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Brain, behavior, and immunity.