Frontline Workers

How important is the wellbeing of frontline healthcare staff during a pandemic?

We at Healing Minds are deeply thankful to the healthcare workers in the UAE as well as around the world who continue to rise above the call of duty and work tirelessly to keep everyone safe.

Working at the frontline during a pandemic could be very stressful. Frontline staff may appear strong and resilient but inside they may be falling apart emotionally. It is also important to talk about the mental and emotional wellbeing of staff when they are serving others. A recent study in Wuhan, China, showed that frontline health care workers caring directly for patients with COVID-19 reported higher levels of severe mental health symptoms than those in secondary roles, and women were more likely than men to report severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.

What are some of the mental health issues that frontline healthcare workers are facing during the current crisis?

In the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers are going to work every day at a great personal risk. To outsiders, they look strong and resilient but underneath the calm surface, there could be anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, depression, fatigue, burnout and acute stress disorder.

Frontline healthcare workers worry that they will get sick and infect others, including their family members. Those with at-risk may have decided to isolate themselves from adults/children in the family and may be fighting loneliness. They may feel let down by their employers if not provided with proper safety gear or due to poor staffing and work overload. Healthcare staff will likely to be exposed to many distressing and potentially traumatic events such as losing patients and even colleagues. Adding to the extreme pressure they are working under, they may be forced to make impossible decisions about allotting resources.

We have included some recommendations here hoping to promote mental health and resilience among healthcare workers. Our mental health professionals are just a phone call away, do reach out on our toll-free number 800 MINDS (800 64637)

What are some self-help strategies that healthcare workers could benefit from during this crisis?
  • Acknowledge worries you may have: Working on the frontline during a pandemic is stressful. Be kind to yourself - your thoughts, reactions and feelings are normal. Take time to notice what is worrying you and think about what you can and cannot do.
  • Make time for self-care: Make sure you don’t ignore your own needs.
    Depending on your duties and shift hours, take steps such as preparing food in advance so that you don’t go to work on an empty stomach. Try to have fresh, nutritious meals and stay hydrated. When possible, do exercises/yoga/meditation to unwind after work.
  • Stay connected with family and friends: Reach out to them and talk to them about your fears and worries. Allow yourself to be “off-duty” when at home so that you can rest.
  • Do more of the things that make you happy: Whether it’s listening to your favourite music on your way to work, watching comedy shows during your coffee break or video-calling a loved one, find things in your daily routine that make you smile and do them more often.
  • Use grounding techniques: If you are feeling overwhelmed, use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to help ground yourself: Notice 5 things that you see around you, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Seek professional help: If your symptoms are increasing over time, or you feel distressed to the point that your functioning is impacted, do not suffer in silence. Call our toll-free helpline and seek help from our team of mental health professionals.
When should I consider seeking professional help?

Feeling excessively worried and anxious, experiencing panic attacks, feeling unusually low and no longer able to enjoy the things that you once loved, struggling to focus, having poor appetite and sleep disturbances are all signs to watch out for. If these symptoms persist beyond a few days, causing distress and interrupting your daily functioning, it is time to seek professional help.

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