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Mental Health Support for Health Care Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented levels of anxiety, insomnia, depression, and distress to health care workers, according to preliminary studies in JAMA Network Open and Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

A new article in the March 2021 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, “Staff Emotional Support at Montefiore Medical Center During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” details how Montefiore Medical Center—located in the Bronx, the borough hardest hit by COVID-19 in New York City—implemented various mental health services to mitigate and treat psychological distress among staff. Interventions implemented during the pandemic included the following:

• psychoeducational resources (including invited presentations, grand rounds, and web-based resources);
• telephone support line;
• staff support centers (SSCs);
• clinical treatment program;
• parenting skills and support groups;
• team support sessions;
• peer support outreach;
• mental health and wellness programs; and
• clergy support.

The most heavily used service was SSCs and the least used service was clergy support. The SSCs were promoted as locations to balance work with self-care and safe places to nurture health care workers’ well-being. They were originally opened with limited hours but quickly expanded to include weekday access. Utilization of SSCs grew from 25 visits on the first day to more than 750 daily visits during the height of the pandemic. There were more than 32,000 visits recorded from March to mid-June 2020.

The article highlights “some useful psychologically based interventions, but these cannot be undertaken in isolation from practical steps such as good communication, appropriate training, access to personal protective equipment, adequate rest, and practical support,” adds an accompanying editorial by Steve Kisely, MD, PhD, DMedRes.

Source: The Joint Commission