If you’re a frontline worker, we thank you for your work and applaud your courage. You’re keeping society running in the face of some extreme stressors during the COVID-19 pandemic! The good news is, you’re not in it alone, and there are things you can do to protect your mental health.
If you — or someone you know — feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, hopelessness, fear or exhaustion, or may be considering suicide, call 911.
You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline (800-985-5990), the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) or the Crisis Text Line (text MHFA to 741741).
Mental Health First Aid teaches that trauma affects people differently, and a mass traumatic event, such as a pandemic, can have lasting effects. Trauma can be direct (your own experience) or vicarious (something you’ve witnessed others experience). COVID-19 checks all those boxes.
Essential workers on the frontlines comprise almost half of the workforce — including fields such as grocery and general merchandise stores, food production and food processing, janitorial and maintenance, agriculture, trucking, health care and protective services (police and EMT).
These are the people who aren’t locked down at home: They’re going to work, dealing with the public and experiencing burnout, exhaustion and fear. The reality of that lived experience is underscored by research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found 56% of American adults (and 64% of frontline health care workers and their families) reported that worry or stress related to the pandemic has affected them in at least one of these ways: sleep problems, poor appetite or overeating, frequent headaches or stomachaches, difficulty controlling their temper, increased alcohol or drug use, and worsening chronic health conditions.
However, there are ways to protect yourself from the mental and emotional impact of COVID-19 trauma. Here are a few tips from the MHFA Curriculum and National Council for Mental Wellbeing member Jefferson Center for Mental Health (Wheat Ridge, Colorado).
If you’re not a frontline essential worker, you probably know one. Learn some ways you can #BeTheDifference for them in these posts:
*Information provided by: MHFA Curriculum, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, Shape magazine