Research shows that frontline healthcare workers battling the virus are putting themselves at risk for not only contracting the illness, but also for depression and anxiety caused by exposure to the emotional horrors of a disease that has so far killed over 3,771,054 people worldwide.
In other words, frontline healthcare workers are often more susceptible to experiencing depression and anxiety in the face of the pandemic than those not seeing the effects of the virus first-hand.
Strengthening mental health support for frontline healthcare providers will be vital in staying ahead of long-term mental health impacts that may take years to fully emerge. Healthcare workers are at a higher risk for developing burnout, depression, and PTSD, all of which are only exacerbated by the pandemic.
For American frontline healthcare workers who are at risk, social support services exist. Here are several:
Headspace Plus: Meditation app Headspace is offering all U.S. healthcare professionals who work in public health settings free access to their Headspace Plus offering through 2020. Headspace provides guided meditations, mindfulness training, animations, articles, and videos on everything from stress to sleep, to help improve health and happiness. The app currently has millions of users in more than 190 countries. Healthcare professionals can redeem the free subscription using their National Provider Identifier (NPI) or their organization information to verify credentials.
For the Frontlines: Crisis Text Line, Shout, and Kids Help Phone have united to offer free, 24/7 crisis counseling to health care professionals and essential workers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. In the U.S., text FRONTLINE to 741741. For more information, visit https://www.forthefrontlines.org/
DiveThru: An introspection app that helps users increase their sense of self-awareness using guided deep breathing exercises, mindfulness journaling, reflection techniques. The app helps users become more mindful, develop a deeper connection with their inner self, clear their mind, overcome life’s obstacles, and improve mental wellness. Individual ‘dives’ last 6, 12, or 18 minutes, allowing you to fit sessions into your schedule. DiveThru has one-time pricing as low as $2.49 for Quick Dives & Deep Dives sessions; monthly and yearly pricing for the full app; and they also have a lifetime subscription option. The app can be downloaded at https://apps.apple.com/CA/app/id1383605874?mt=8
AMA: The American Medical Association provides an extensive list of free online resources for frontline health care professionals about managing mental health during COVID-19. Many of these resources focus on the particular vulnerability of health care professionals to negative mental health effects due to the pandemic, as they strive to balance the duty of caring for patients with concerns about their own well-being and that of their family and friends. The full list is available at https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/managing-mental-health-during-covid-19
National Center for PTSD: A division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Center for PTSD has put together a checklist of preparedness tips, as well as coping strategies for health care workers for managing both short- and long-term stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. A downloadable PDF is available at https://www.ptsd.va.gov/covid/COVID_healthcare_workers.asp
Providing care to others during the pandemic can lead to stress, anxiety, fear, and in some cases depression. How frontline healthcare workers cope with these emotions can affect their long-term well-being, as well as the care they give to others. During the pandemic, it is crucial that front line healthcare workers take the steps needed to cope with stress and seek help when needed.