Prioritizing Care for the Caregivers
The mental and physical impacts of COVID-19 are more than just "pandemic exhaustion." There has been a recent spike in mental health conditions in healthcare providers due to COVID stress. Syndromes like post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) and conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are on the rise.
According to a study by the CDC, between March and April of 2021, over 50% of healthcare workers surveyed reported symptoms of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, PTSD and even thoughts of suicide. Symptoms were most prevalent among workers who spent much of their time providing direct care for patients with COVID-19.
Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers and first responders have faced the stress of long hours, limited time off, and isolation from family and friends. These selfless individuals have witnessed significant illness and death and have faced the fear of bringing illness home to their loved ones. This level of stress and trauma have taken a toll on the mental health of those on the front lines of our health systems.
As indicated in recent surveys, 36.8% of healthcare workers reported symptoms of PTSD, 32% reported symptoms of depression, 30% reported symptoms of anxiety and 8.4% reported the presence of suicidal thoughts.
Healthcare workers are trained to save lives and often push their own needs aside to care for their patients. It is imperative to support healthcare workers during this unprecedented time and connect them with the resources for (stress management) and to prevent and treat mental health connections. Reid Health offers the First Responder Emergency Services Help (FRESH) program that is designed to provide mental health services to first responders in a confidential environment. This resource allows a safe place for first responders to debrief following a traumatic call and to discuss events that could potentially lead to PTSD, if not addressed.
Symptoms of PTSD
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder usually appear within three months of a traumatic incident but can emerge even later. When symptoms last longer than one month and interfere with relationships and routines of daily life, PTSD is often diagnosed. Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Feelings of fear and stress despite being out of danger
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Reoccurring nightmares related to a traumatic event
- Becoming very upset when remembering a traumatic event
- Reliving a traumatic event over and over
- Avoiding places, events, or objects that are a reminder of a traumatic event
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is a serious disorder that affects the way you think, feel, and handle daily activities like eating, working, or sleeping. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present most of the day and nearly every day for at least two weeks. Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling sad, anxious, or "empty" most of the day
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or pessimistic
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling restless or having trouble sleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Loss of energy/fatigue
Symptoms of Anxiety
There are several kinds of anxiety disorders including situational anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and phobia-related disorders. To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, symptoms must be present most days for at least six months. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:
- Feeling restless, on-edge, or wound-up
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble controlling feelings of worry
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty with sleep
- Loss of energy/fatigue
Warning Signs of Suicide
Suicidal ideation means thinking about, considering, or planning suicide. Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States but can be prevented by knowing the signs and being aware of the resources to turn to for help. Symptoms of suicide include:
- Talking about wanting to die, great guilt or shame, or being a burden to others
- Feeling empty, hopeless, or trapped
- Feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
- Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving important items away, or making a will
- Taking dangerous risks and exhibiting reckless behavior
Mental health is a priority and resources are available to treat symptoms of mental health conditions. Reid Health has a team of providers including psychiatrists, physicians, medical specialists, registered and licensed practical nurses, licensed clinical social workers, and occupational & activity therapist who are dedicated to the health of the body, mind, and spirit. To connect with the FRESH program, or attend a virtual support group, visit us today.