Mental health resources available for healthcare workers during pandemic

Posted at 9:32 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 15:45:39-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - News 3 is diving into mental health impacts and resources being offered for front line healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laura Lowe works as a nurse in Portsmouth.

"I've cried a few times. It can get stressful, but this is kind of what we signed up for," Lowe said.

"You are that patient's person for the 12 hours that you're there," Lowe added. "I think the hardest part of these patients is that they're going through these really rough, difficult times where they're suffering, and they're by themselves."

She always looks for ways to decompress.

"Getting that fresh breath of air after wearing a mask for 12 to 14 hours a day - it's so good to just feel the sunshine on your face," she said.

Julie Walls has worked with first responders as a therapist.

"I think that what they're going through now is almost unfathomable for most of us," Walls said. "They're putting themselves, right now, at unprecedented risk. They're doing it every day. All day - sometimes 10, 12, 16 hours a day."

Gary Roftus, a licensed clinical social worker based in Virginia Beach, said front line workers face a multi-dimensional kind of stress.

"We've never seen this large number of healthcare workers face this kind of crisis and trauma," Roftus said. "It's individuals who have to take care of their own self, and have to be concerned about their own families."

Roftus is concerned the pandemic could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for workers.

Related: Coronavirus versus anxiety: How to protect your mental health

"A lot of healthcare workers do their shift, and then they return the next day. So, it doesn't give them a lot of time to process their feelings and what they're going through," Roftus said. "I think that for some of these healthcare workers, when the crisis goes down, when the crisis is eventually over, they're really going to be hit with a lot of feelings."

In Virginia, the state's Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services has resources for healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In North Carolina, state health officials created two new mental health helplines. The Hope4Healers Helpline (919-226-2002) provides for support for healthcare workers and first responders throughout the state, while the Hope4NC Helpline (1-855-587-3463) is available for all North Carolinians.

Both Roftus and Walls believe self-care and taking time for yourself is vital for frontline workers.

For Lowe, she's staying positive while looking ahead.

"Just to sit outside and read, or just go for a walk. It's going to get easier," Lowe said.

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