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Block: Tips for health care worker self care and ongoing mental health support

McHenry County Mental Health Board Executive Director Scott Block poses for a photo Dec. 16 after discussing stigma as it relates to mental health.
McHenry County Mental Health Board Executive Director Scott Block poses for a photo Dec. 16 after discussing stigma as it relates to mental health.

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Caring for oneself during turbulent times can influence overall health and wellbeing. Stress, fear, worry and risk reduce the body’s ability to mitigate illness. For health care workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic self-care steps are vital.

According to an article by Rubina Kapil of Mental Health First Aid, those who are facing long, tiring hours and fear of exposure to the virus need to practice daily self-care. These tips were created for these individuals who are essential medical and health care workers who must care for their own mental health and well-being.Yet, everyone with concerns over COVID-19 can benefit from these basics.

Take a few minutes during your commute, before bed or even between patients to be the difference for yourself with self-care during this stressful time.

Recognize the valuable role you and your colleagues play on the front lines of COVID-19. Remind yourself that despite challenges, you are making a difference and taking care of those most in need.

Practice self-compassion. There is no road map. You are doing the best you can in a difficult situation. Take your situation day by day or hour by hour, if needed. Take breaks from work when you can.

Validate any emotions you might be feeling. There is no right or wrong way to process the COVID-19 experience. It is normal to feel a range of emotions including being overwhelmed, frustrated or angry, worried, anxious, restless, agitated, sad or fatigued.

Find ways to see the positive. It can be easy to get overwhelmed hearing about the growing number of confirmed cases, shortage of resources and loss of life. Try to find the hopeful stories about communities coming together to support local businesses, feed hungry children and families, donate money and critical supplies, and recognize front-line workers, like you, for their sacrifice.

These small changes to your routine can improve your overall mood and protect your mental health during this pandemic. If these are too hard to do, that’s ok too. Seek out support from family or friends and find other simple self-care tactics that help you.

MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT

Prior to COVID-19, few issues affected our community quite like mental illness, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Now, the pandemic represents the greatest crisis to ever hit health and human service providers.

According to National Council for Behavioral Health CEO, Chuck Ingoglia, “if we don’t take steps now to avert the collapse of the system, we can expect millions of individuals with mental illness and addiction to arrive in overtaxed emergency departments across the nation.”

With COVID-19 continuing to dominate the focus of health care systems, a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, published on April 2, shows the psychological toll the pandemic is taking on many Americans. According to the survey, 45 percent of adults (53% of women and 37% of men) say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19 percent say it has had a “major impact.”

To maintain access to essential behavioral health services during this national public health emergency, the McHenry County Mental Health Board made $276,000 in funding available to its Network service providers for Continuity of Operations and Workforce Retention efforts.

The long term psychological and system-wide impacts of COVID-19 are unknown but expected to be enduring.

Fortunately, in McHenry County, services are still available and residents are encouraged to call their existing service providers to maintain continuity of care or utilize the McHenry County Crisis Line at 800-892-8900, 2-1-1, or the MCHELP Mobile App for information and referral.

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