If there is one thing that COVID-19 has not changed, it is the necessity of mental health resources and services However, with the immeasurable that anxiety and stress that the virus has caused on our society, especially on those frontline workers, the need will surely be greater in the aftermath.
We have yet to see the full impact that COVID-19 is going to make on individuals and families, and it could set off a chain reaction of struggles deeper than we can fully grasp. With that being said, funding for mental health must be a priority. Our communities are going to need to help, and if the services are not available due to lack of funding, matters are likely to get worse.
Below is an excerpt from an article written by Courtney Lenora that appeared in Medium last month, titled “Mental Health Workers: The Other First Responders in this Pandemic.” It outlines the importance of our mental health workers, the need for more mental health resources, and just how much strain COVID-19 is causing.
“I support people who have a very limited understanding of what this pandemic means. For them, it means a lot of changes to regular routine, a lack of contact with the outside world, and a lot of waiting and boredom.
Without structure and purpose, their risk of self-destructive behaviour increases. It cannot simply be explained to them what might happen if there is an outbreak in the home. This could create further anxiety, paranoia, and undue stress.
To the best of our ability, my front-line team tries to keep routine in the home, offer alternative activities, and practice a lot of supportive counselling and patience. Most importantly, we try to keep individuals safe and healthy, not only from the virus, but from mental health crisis.
This means that we as essential workers need to keep ourselves safe and healthy. We must be so careful not to come in contact with the virus and bring it to work. Conversely, we are trying not to bring the virus home to our loved ones should there be an outbreak at work.
Just as important, we must look after ourselves mentally, so that we can continue to work effectively for those who need us. This is easier said than done, given the circumstances.
We have limits, and a lot of us will be prone to burn out the longer this situation continues to negatively impact us both personally and professionally.
We are human, not super heroes.
I think I speak for most mental health professionals during this time. I have helpers and healers in my own life who I know are struggling personally in this pandemic. One even said she is cutting back on work to look after herself and her family.
I know front-line workers who are thinking about a leave of absence or extended holiday at some point, knowing that they cannot sustain working under stressful conditions long-term without hitting “reset”. Some have even opted for early retirement to protect their health and their loves ones. Meanwhile, many of us are currently working overtime, and this field was facing a staffing crisis even prior to the pandemic.
We are only in the beginning stages of this pandemic, and essential care workers are already walking away.
Front-line staff walked out of a group home in Markham, Ontario last week, leaving residents unattended. While I cannot imagine doing this, there could be a number of reasons why this happened, and I would guess that these people did not feel safe or protected.
If mental health workers all burnout, what replaces us? When mental health crisis reaches its peak in response to the pandemic and overloads mental health services, what happens then?
As Dr. Andrew L. Smith and Dr. Neil de Laplante note, the mental health system is already “chronically under-resourced”, and vulnerable persons face the greatest consequences if the system breaks-down in response the pandemic crisis.
Funding is necessary to keep mental health resources in place or develop new services as the effects of the pandemic evolve. Additional funding is required to implement health and safety measures to protect people living and working in group-homes, institutions, and long-term care facilities. But money is not the only important resource.
In addition to funding, mental health workers need safeguarding and protection. The most important resource in the mental health system is its workers. Without anyone available to provide the service, funding loses its purpose.
Eventually, COVID-19 will no longer be a significant health threat. However, we can expect a long-term impact on society. Loved ones will be lost. People will struggle to recover financially. Some might be traumatized. Vulnerable persons could face significant abuse in isolated situations. Addictions could surge. Not everyone will come out of this pandemic being able to continue on their previous life.
Mental health workers are not miracle workers, but they are necessary when people are in crisis, which will be an inevitable result of the current situation.”