Support Workers Struggle to Cope

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COVID-19, formerly known as the novel corona virus, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. It has become increasingly important to understand not only the physical symptoms, but also the effects on mental health.

While current research focuses primarily on nurses and doctors or the effects of social isolation, it is important to consider how the mental health of other professional caregivers and the populations they support affect. As a development worker and advocate for vulnerable sections of the population, I understand how working in a high-stress environment can have psychological effects, especially when people with complex physical or behavioral needs are supported in a crisis.

The Trauma and Mental Health Report (TMHR) interviewed many people who are currently working with vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Toni (name changed to protect anonymity), a person who supports adults with complex developmental diagnoses, reported how additional stress affected their mental health and the mental health of their customers:

“Everyone I work with has problems in one way or another. I am currently in a position in which I try to support my clients, whose mental health is deteriorating, and at the same time try to cope with myself. My fear and fear of the future has never been so great, but I try to look brave when I go to work. “

Hannah (name changed), a registered nurse in gerontology, said her mental health was also compromised:

“I have recently seen a dramatic increase in my fear and fear for myself, my family and friends and especially my residents. My feelings were extremely unstable and subject to my reactivity caused by external factors, many of which are beyond my control. When you say that, many of these feelings are valid considering the circumstances. “

Others, such as Dominic (name changed), who works in acute psychiatry, commented that working during the pandemic has hardly changed his mental health:

“I try my best not to rethink what’s going on in the world so I don’t panic or get too scared. I followed the guidelines we get at work to reduce the spread of infections. There are currently no confirmed cases on our website. As soon as the first one occurs, I feel like I’ll be a little more worried. “

A common theme among respondents was that they are all exposed to additional stress caused by changes in their customers’ behavior that affect both their mental health and the ability to effectively support their customers. Caroline (name changed), a trained gerontology nurse working in a dementia ward, said:

“Many residents rely on a routine, but since COVID-19, residents have been forced to find their new norm. They are no longer able to live normal lives and are forced to isolate themselves, which has increased the suicide watch. The residents constantly express to me how lonely they feel and how they fear for their well-being every day. Nursing school taught me how to administer medication, insert catheters and many other nursing skills, but I was never taught how to deal with suicide victims. Every day I hear residents say things like “I want to kill myself” or “There is nothing I can live for” and I feel the pressure to say the right thing, but what is the right thing to say? I lie awake at night and wonder and hope I said the right thing. This is a constant fear and the sad thing is that this is only the beginning. “

Others, such as Chris (name changed), who supports people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, described how routine changes affected clients:

“Routine is extremely important for the residents. Routine is how they see and start their day. Since they cannot go to church or go to school, their entire schedule is no longer available. It was definitely difficult for them to understand and work through because we (employees and residents) don’t know when this will end. There was fear, confusion and more. You are not used to getting so much out of the routine and spending so long inside. We support the employees with what the residents go through. We’re there for every shutdown, escalation, and anything you can imagine. If there was a way to stop all of this for them; I would do it.”

mental health, trauma, coronavirus, COVID-19, anxiety, stress, social support, nurse, supporter, isolation, behavior, aggression, crisis, ASD, FASD, dementia-2

All respondents expressed concern about the current mental health of the populations they support, the fear of spreading COVID-19 to medically complex people, and the increasing difficulty in dealing with their clients’ behavior and mental health. They also commented on how they are trying to stay positive and deal with it. In Chris’ words:

“I always try my best to remember the good days in these particularly difficult days. As much as I want to run and hide, I have to be there for the residents, not just because it’s my job, but because I care about them so much that they help me to do it all. No matter how stressful it all can be, they mean the world to me and they need all the support they can get now. “

-Jessica Ferrier, contributing writer

Feature: Matthias Zomer at Pexels, Creative Commons
First: Ashkan Forouzani at Unsplash, Creative Commons
Second: Pixabay at Pexels, Creative Commons

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