The Importance of Proactive Mental Health Care
Everyone experiences a bad day at work from time to time. There will always be those occasions when things don’t go smoothly or when various demands ramp up, causing stress. In most cases, we adjust accordingly, deal with the high pressures, work through the challenges and get back to the good days without long-term effects.
But what if your job is a steady stream of high-stress situations? What if working means dealing with artificial and natural disasters, trauma, life and death conditions, emergencies, and other challenging circumstances? This is daily for many first responders, military personnel, and civilians.
Exposure to Acute Stress and Trauma
In the process of caring for the physical and emotional needs of co-workers, friends, families, or others, those that are subjected to stress and trauma often work long hours under challenging conditions. They will sometimes remain in affected areas or amongst affected people for weeks or months, assisting others.
Not Immune to Mental Health Risks
Unfortunately, as brave, charitable, or kind as they are, dealing with these situations on a regular or extended basis can take a severe toll. Even those who have selflessly dedicated themselves to serving others are not immune to the devastating effects upon their mental health.
Studies indicate that depression, stress disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder rates are increasing, especially during this pandemic. Even those who are well-trained may not be prepared for the psychological challenges of a particular situation. Additionally, most training programs simply do not include sufficient content regarding psychological self-aid. Nor do they consider the severe burnout that often accompanies extended periods of stress. It is a sad irony that staying focused on the needs of others can also make it challenging to identify or attend to their mental health concerns.
Proactive Personal Care
As a preliminary step to proactive personal care, anyone working or living in a stressful environment is encouraged to use self-diagnostic questions to evaluate the psychological effects of their work. Questions like these can help develop an awareness of the growing impact on their mental health:
- How did the recent event impact me?
- What emotions am I feeling because of my participation?
- What do I need to do to care for myself?
- How do I get closure?
- Who else is struggling?
- What, if anything, do I need/want to do for my coworkers who also experienced this exposure?
- How does this affect our next call? Our next shift?
Employers also need more robust tools, resources, and assistance to deal with trauma exposure’s ongoing and cumulative effects. Fortunately, some have established protections, priority access to medical and mental health services, pre-incident training, and more. Mental health professionals working with these high-risk individuals also offer a wide range of post-incident services.
These services include working closely with HR departments to evaluate staff, providing easy access to information and referrals to mental health services, and after-action reviews performed in groups and with individuals.
Along with intervening post-event to identify and treat developing problems, many experts focus on preventing them before starting. This involves educational programs to increase awareness of personal needs and help build skills to withstand and rebound operational stress.
- Best Treatment Options For PTSD
- Stress Management for Client and Clinician
- Art Therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Trauma, Triggers and Metal Health
- How Childhood Trauma Affects Us as Adults