The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unmeasurable hardship and pain across the world. With a global death toll approaching 400,000 at time of writing, the pain felt by the families and loved ones of the deceased is widespread. For those fortunate enough to not have sick loved ones, or get sick themselves, the pandemic has still caused pain. Rates of mental health issues, domestic abuse, alcohol consumption, and drug use have risen during the pandemic. Even frontline health workers have experienced heightened rates of mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), alcohol abuse, and, in some cases, suicide.
The wellbeing of frontline health workers is important for containing the spread of the virus. These workers are essential in hospitals, clinics, and doctors offices around the country. Recently, Charles Smith, an addictionologist at Recovery First, discussed ways we can support the wellbeing of frontline health workers during the pandemic.
Frontline Health Workers Struggling with Substance Abuse
Sadly, as the pandemic continues to worsen, it’s likely that frontline health workers struggling with substance abuse will become a more common scenario. As it stands, frontline health workers are currently in an incredibly stressful situation. As more and more COVID-19 patients enter hospitals, beds have begun to run out. The influx of patients coupled with a shortage of personal protective equipment has placed a significant burden on frontline health workers.
Stressful situations can lead to certain mental health disorders, like PTSD, or cause somebody to turn to alcohol in order to cope. Charles Smith, an addictionologist at Recovery First, discussed the effects of PTSD on frontline workers. “PTSD can have the same impact on…the brain as long-term use of methamphetamine,” Smith wrote, “Those we depend on most are being subjected to serious and chronic brain trauma.
Ways for Frontline Health Workers to Cope with Stress
Charles Smith also outlined some ways that frontline health workers can manage stress and prevent substance abuse.
Ways for Frontline Health Workers to Manage Stress
- Be aware of your own mental health.
- Turn off the news.
- Take breaks when you can.
- Don’t let social distancing become social isolation.
- Get some exercise.
- Control what you can.
- Don’t get sucked into substance abuse.
Above all, it’s important for frontline health workers to remember that alcohol and substance abuse is not the answer to stress or mental health disorders. “When it’s in your (frontline health workers) nature to help others first before helping yourself, it’s easy to feel like bearing the burden is part of your job,” Smith wrote, “But, when putting others above yourself puts your own personal safety at risk, it’s time to take action.”
Finding Substance Abuse Treatment
If you are a frontline health worker, or another type of worker, struggling with substance abuse, know that there is help out there. Recovery First Treatment Center is a leader in providing addiction treatment to people from all walks of life. If you’re struggling with substance abuse or co-occurring mental health disorders, know that there is hope for a better tomorrow.
All quotes were initially published by Fierce Healthcare.