Mental Health Pros Come to the Aid of Frontline Comrades

Self-Care a “Selfless Act”

Clinicians need to balance the need to stay informed with the potential for information overload, which can contribute to anxiety, she said.

She also recommended that individuals continue to connect with loved ones while practicing social distancing. Equally important is talking to someone about the struggles people may be facing at work.

For Amin Azzam MD, MA, the benefits of these initiatives are obvious.

“There is always value in providing additional mental health services and tending to psychological well-being,” Azzam, adjunct professor of psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco and UC Berkeley, told Medscape Medical News.

“If there ever were a time when we can use all the emotional support possible, then it would be during a global pandemic,” added Azzam, who is also director of Open Learning Initiatives at Osmosis, a nonprofit health education company. 

Azzam urged healthcare professionals to avail themselves of such resources as often as necessary.

“Taking care of ourselves is not a selfish act. When the oxygen masks come down on airplanes we are always instructed to put our own masks on first before helping those in need. It’s a sign of strength, not weakness, to seek emotional support,” he said.

However, it isn’t always easy. The long-standing stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues has not stopped for COVID-19. Even workers who are in close daily contact with people infected with the virus are finding they’re not immune to the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment, Azzam added.

“Nevertheless, the burden these frontline workers are facing is real…and often crushing. Some Ontario doctors have reported pretraumatic stress disorder, which they attribute to having watched the virus wreak havoc in other countries, and knowing that similar difficulties are headed their way,” he said.

A Growing Movement

Doris Grinspun, PhD, MSN, the CEO of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), said the province’s nurses are under intense pressure at work, then fear infecting family members once they come home. Some are even staying at hotels to ensure they don’t infect others, as reported by CBC News.

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