Mental health and the pandemic: Healthcare professionals should be open to the possibility of being taken care of
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly been a challenging time for all. With the introduction of lockdowns, social distancing and other stressors stemming from COVID-19, it is no surprise that managing our mental health has been particularly challenging in recent times. For this reason, prioritising our mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever.
Health Professionals (HPs) have played a significant role in helping us through this pandemic. However, they are not immune to the new stressors everyone is experiencing. Aspen Medical's mental health subject matter expert, Albert Valdez Ph.D., wants to remind us to look after Health Professionals, as they've been working tirelessly to look after us through these trying times.
"Health Professionals are facing an incredible challenge. The job they're familiar with is already quite difficult, their work environment may be in a high-risk area in terms of the virus and in many cases, they've seen an increase in work hours. Some have been reported to work up to 60 or 70 hours a week," says Dr Valadez. "As you might imagine, there's an incredible amount of stress in their workplace."
As with anyone, HPs also have additional responsibilities and stressors in their personal life, or perhaps their caring responsibilities continue when they go home.
Dr Valadez explains that there is probably no way to get around the fact that HPs will be stressed and exhausted. However, there are ways to mitigate the stressors and strategies to alleviate the effects on one's wellbeing. One of the essential steps is engaging their social support system as much as possible and having those discussions ahead of time.
"Health Professionals are incredibly taxed and there is no there's no other way to put it. Taking care of themselves is important but also, just as they take care of us as a community, it is our responsibility to take care of them as well," he says.
"My experience in healthcare, as a HP myself and working with other HPs, is that we have a lot of trouble asking for help. We're great at giving help, but we have a huge resistance to receiving it. It might be about pride, or it might be about not feeling comfortable in going and asking folks to give us a hand. Often control can have a lot to do with it."
He suggested that often, a characteristic of HPs is that they're used to being in control and they must be because their job requires it of them. When taking care of somebody who's sick, that person who is ill wants to feel as though the individual caring for them has that sense of control, that sense of in charge; it brings them comfort. However, there are times when HPs are the ones that need to be in that comforted role.
"Health professionals should not be afraid to be vulnerable, ask for help, cry, or not be in control. Let yourself receive the care you deserve during this trying time."
Albert A. Valdez Ph.D. is Aspen Medical's Clinical Manager Credentialing and Mental Health Services.
Your GP or health professional
Psychologist or counsellor
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or via www.lifeline.org.au
Mensline Australia: 1300 78 99 78
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
Suicide Helpline: 1300 651 251
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or via www.beyondblue.org.au
Mental Health Foundation Australia: 1300 MHF AUS (643 287)