Topic: Building Mental Health Resilience for Healthcare Providers
Question: What is the status of the mental health of our healthcare providers? Has there been an increase in the need for mental health services following the Delta variant surge of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Jenn Faul, LCSW
Head of Special Projects Sanford Health
Head of Special Projects
There certainly has been a recent increase in need for mental health services for our healthcare professionals throughout the state. I work with Dr. Jon Ulven, Stephanie Schafer, and Skylar Borg on a team from Sanford Health and the Behavioral Health Division of the North Dakota Department of Human Services on a program called “Reach for Resilience,” which provides healthcare workers with support and resources related to stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw a peak in requests for our services in August 2021 as the Delta variant began to surge through our region, with many healthcare workers expressing that they are “not up for this [the pandemic surge] again.” We have also received requests for assistance from a state medical licensing board that has seen a significant increase in substance use concerns for their members, suggesting that many healthcare workers might also be using substances as a coping mechanism for increased stress.
Unfortunately, there is a strong stigma in the Midwest about seeking help for mental health. This makes it even more difficult for healthcare workers in this region, who have been held up as heroes, to receive their own mental health treatment. We hear healthcare workers say that they are worried that others might consider them to be “weak” or ineffective at their job if they reach out for support for their mental health. Because of this stigma, it is vital that we all work to promote a culture of acceptance of mental health treatment among healthcare professionals. It is important that healthcare workers have opportunities to take a break, and to develop a strong sense of self-efficacy in the face of increasing mental health distress. This helps to foster resilience, or the ability to quickly “bounce back” to normal functioning following a time of increased stress.
The website for the Reach for Resilience program (reach4resiliencend.com) provides various “self-help” tools, such as guidance on how to promote healthy sleep and mindfulness to reduce stress, as well as resources that help navigate finding professional mental health treatment with the assistance of your employer (i.e., Employee Assistance Programs or “EAPs”). There are also resources for employers and organizations that focus on how to create and manage a culture of mental health awareness within the workplace. Finally, loved ones of healthcare workers can also find helpful information on how to approach talking about mental health and supporting their loved one with seeking treatment.
- The Reach for Resilience program can be accessed through the website reach4resiliencend.com or by calling 1-701-365-4920.