Honoring Mental Health Workers During Times of Crisis
Therapists, counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, and other mental health workers provide invaluable services at all times. They help patients learn to manage their mental illnesses, recover from addiction, prevent relapses, and cope with difficult situations. When a difficult situation becomes a widespread crisis that impacts everyone, mental health workers become even more important. Those of us who benefit from their services must honor them now, during a tough time, and always.
A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic is scary, but it also serves to remind us how important our mental health care workers are.
Doctors and nurses are busy caring for patients, and often the unsung heroes hard at work in the wings are the therapists and others helping all of us cope in this frightening time.
Now is a great time to honor the mental health care workers in your life, even those who have helped you in the past.
Let them know how valuable their services are, how appreciated their efforts are, and also help them manage and care for their own mental health.
The Importance of Mental Health Care in Difficult Times
COVID-19 has taken over our lives in many ways. It poses a serious risk to the physical health of our most vulnerable people as we are asked to change our daily routines and how we interact with other people.
While physical health is at the forefront of this crisis, what is not always acknowledged is the mental health impact. Any type of crisis situation, from a pandemic to a natural disaster, can cause serious harm to both those people with mental illness and those who have never been diagnosed.
Even when the risks of a crisis are actually low for most people, the fear and especially the uncertainty can become overwhelming. We thrive in certainty, knowing what to expect, and face fear, stress, and anxiety when it becomes unclear what will happen next.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly everyone affected by an emergency, widespread crisis, or disaster will go through some type and degree of psychological distress. It’s during these times that we need mental health workers more than ever.
The Risks to Mental Health Care Professionals
It’s important to realize that anyone can struggle with mental health during difficult times, including mental health workers. While they are working hard to keep everyone else healthy, they also suffer and may have a hard time coping. They may put all their focus on patients and fail to give enough attention to their own mental health.
One of the biggest risks of working in mental health is burnout. During a crisis, burning out and getting so-called compassion fatigue may be more likely and more intense. Studies of mental health caregivers during normal times have found that burnout and emotional exhaustion are common, occurring in 50 percent or more of workers.
The ripple effects of this burnout include poor physical health, mental health symptoms and conditions like depression, and of course a diminished ability to do the important job of caring for others.
So how can everyone honor and support mental health care professionals? By showing gratitude, raising awareness, being part of their social support network, and other steps that let them know they are needed and appreciated during this difficult time.
Show Gratitude for Your Mental Health Professional
The simplest way to honor the therapists and other health care workers in your life is to express gratitude. This can be as simple as saying thank you, telling them that you are grateful for their services and expertise, and that you appreciate them. Say it in person if possible or make a phone call or send a card.
All types of healthcare workers are at risk of burnout. They spend so much of their time caring for others, and this can become overwhelming, especially during times of widespread crisis. Studies show that gratitude is good for mental health. Expressing how grateful you are for health care workers will improve your own mental health and also theirs. They will feel buoyed by your support and appreciation, knowing that their work is meaningful and has a positive impact.
Raise Awareness for Mental Health
Personal gratitude is a great way to help support and honor the mental health workers in your life, but you can take it one step further. Raise awareness for what they do, how important they are in times of crisis, and that they need support from everyone to maintain their own health.
During a crisis that requires social distancing and quarantine, awareness may take the form of virtual interactions. Give a shout-out to your mental health professionals, and these workers in general, on social media. Share information about mental health during crises and encourage others to take steps to manage their own mental health. In the face of a pandemic and other crises that harm physical health, mental health often takes a back seat. You can support those providing care by helping others see how important their work is now.
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Be There for Your Loved Ones in Mental Health Care
If someone you care about, a family member or friend, works in mental health, be there for them now in practical ways. Provide support by assisting in whatever way they need:
- Listening while they vent about difficulties at work or their own feelings
- Helping out with chores around the house, grocery shopping, and anything else that will reduce their daily burdens and stresses
- Chatting with them online or over the phone if physical contact isn’t possible
- Distracting them with lighthearted news, stories, and events from your life
Also take steps to encourage these health care workers in your lives to manage their physical and mental health. If possible, do things together like exercising and meditating. If you can’t be together, help keep each other accountable by discussing daily what you are each doing to maintain good health and practice positive coping strategies for stress and burnout.
Encourage Mental Health Workers to Get Their Own Professional Help
It can be very difficult for someone who works in mental health to realize and accept that they need professional support for their own mental illnesses or symptoms. They are used to being the ones providing help and care, but if you see someone who has reached a point at which they can no longer manage alone, reach out and suggest professional help.
There is no shame in anyone admitting that they need mental health care, not even those who are professionals in the field. The stigma, unfortunately, extends to therapists and others, often seen as stalwarts of good mental health. But they suffer too, and they need the occasional tune up work from their peers. Whether this means a few therapy sessions or a stay in residential treatment, managing mental health is essential for everyone.
We should always honor our hardworking, dedicated mental health professionals. Now more than ever it is important to show them we care, that we appreciate them, and that we are grateful for their advice and support. Do what you can to show gratitude and to provide practical, day-to-day support, and we will all benefit from better mental health.
Our Mental Health, Addiction, and Co-Occurring Disorder Facilities
Constellation Behavioral Health provides innovative residential treatment programs for adults with mental health, addiction, and co-occurring disorders. We believe excellent treatment outcomes require an intense focus on diagnosing and treating co-occurring disorders. Constellation programs include Alta Mira Recovery Programs, specializing in alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring disorders in Sausalito, CA, Bridges to Recovery, a leading psychiatric program in Los Angeles, Helix Treatment Centers, providing trauma-informed mental health treatment for women in San Diego, and BrightQuest Treatment Centers, offering long-term treatment for individuals suffering from severe and complex mental illnesses in San Diego and Nashville.