Learn the common signs of mental illness in adults and adolescents.
Learn more about common mental health conditions that affect millions.
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In the demanding field of health care, stressors are inevitable. From adjusting to unusual hours and extra shifts, to the trauma of losing patients — your job is not easy. The COVID-19 pandemic has created added layers of uncertainty and increased loss, along with deep concern for the well-being of yourself and your family. Now more than ever, those taking care of us on the frontlines need our support in return.
As you explore this page, take a moment to review signs that indicate it’s time to consider asking for support, as well as a range of resources created especially for frontline health care professionals. You’ll also find actionable tips on building resiliency, and ways for families to get involved.
Caring for others requires that you also care for yourself. You are not alone.
Sometimes it’s easy to recognize the signs that you need to talk to someone about how you’re doing. But as you continue to care for patients, fill extra shifts and manage all the usual stressors day after day, it can become routine to ignore the effects of stress and trauma. You can miss the signs that you need support, so it’s essential to check in with yourself frequently. Reach out for support if you are experiencing any of these warning signs.
Feeling irritable or angry. You may have a lack of patience for things that never used to bother you. You may feel irritated or even angry a lot more than usual.
Feeling anxious, depressed, lonely or constantly sad. You may feel happy much less frequently. The bad days seem to far outweigh the good days.
Reliving traumatic events. You may want nothing more than to forget the distressing things you’ve experienced, or the losses and suffering you’ve seen, but those memories keep reappearing, often unexpectedly.
Isolating yourself and lack of trust in others. You may feel alone, yet you also prefer to be alone. You don’t want to talk or socialize, and have lost interest in usual activities. You may question whether anyone cares, including your leadership at work, and maybe even people who are normally close to you.
Experiencing compassion fatigue, burnout or moral injury. You may find it difficult to empathize with others and are bothered by decisions and situations that feel wrong. The cost of caring may have stretched you thin, and you struggle to get through each shift.
Struggling to sleep or oversleeping. You may be negatively impacted by shiftwork and have little recovery time. You never seem to feel rested — if you can sleep at all. Or you may want to sleep far more than usual.
New or increased substance use. You, and perhaps others, have noticed an increase in how much you are drinking or using other substances.
Experiencing physical issues that impact you in unexpected ways: This could include:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created some unusual circumstances and as a result, you may find that you’ve taken on additional roles that create a range of emotions. These feelings and experiences are normal, but they can take a significant toll on your well-being.
It doesn’t mean that you are destined to have a long-term mental health condition because you’re experiencing this, but addressing signs and symptoms is vital to ensuring lifelong mental health and wellness.
Taking care of yourself is essential — and NAMI can help.
You have been focused on taking care of others, now it’s time to let others help take care of you. Sometimes just having someone to listen helps. Other times, having professional mental health support is essential. Just because you aren’t able to speak with someone face-to-face doesn’t mean you can’t access support.
There are several free, confidential and virtual support services available for frontline health care professionals. Find the one that is right for you.
You can also contact the NAMI HelpLine between 10 am and 8 pm ET at 800-950-6264 to access confidential, professional support. For immediate assistance, text “SCRUBS” to 741741 at any time.
A trained peer — someone who also wears scrubs and knows exactly what you’re going through — can be an invaluable resource. They understand the challenges and frustrations of the profession and are able to lend support in tough times. Peer support offers you a shared perspective with a skilled response.
You are not alone; your peers are ready to stand with you.
As a frontline health care professional, you are already accustomed to stress. But for most, these last months of working during a pandemic have been more difficult than usual. The added stress of treating patients with especially difficult illnesses and injuries can cause stress to accumulate. It can be easy to ignore the minor impact — until you realize that the impact is no longer minor.
You may also find that your usual methods of coping are harder to access due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have met up in groups to decompress, or used the gym or fitness classes to alleviate stress, may be wondering what is left to try when something as simple as hugging one another may be risky.
Whether you are building your resilience as a preventative measure, or are seeking to add to your resiliency skills in new ways, you do have options. Health care professionals already know and understand the importance of their physical health, so you need more than the usual list of coping skills. Before getting into specific strategies, start with these essential steps.
You can improve your stress response and build strength to reduce the harmful effects of stress and trauma. Like any skillset, resiliency should be strengthened, and adding tools like social support and access to resources helps counteract cumulative stress.
Explore resources for yourself and share them with others, keep track of go-to coping strategies, and continue to look after your own physical health. It’s also a good idea to check in with your colleagues sometimes. Here are a few suggestions.
As a health care professional, you already know the importance of eating healthy, exercising and doing your best to get quality sleep — no small feat given the negative impacts of shiftwork. Keep up the good work and don’t forget to add resources regularly.
Being a family member of a health care professional can be exceptionally challenging. You worry about their health and safety, as well as how their challenging career impacts your family. With the added concern of COVID-19, the worry can feel overwhelming. It is important to have resources and support.
You may find it rewarding to begin a social support network for families of health care professionals in your area, or even sharing resources and support with others on social media. If you have no-cost resources you would like others to know about, please send them to [email protected].
Having information to use and share with others is important. Resources can be useful in different ways for everyone, so we encourage each individual to explore options and build a resource toolkit of your own.
Other resources to consider:
If you have no-cost resources you would like others to know about, please send them to [email protected].
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