The Urgent Need for Improved Mental Health Support for Healthcare Workers


Introduction

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise and put increasing stress on a healthcare sector that was already under pressure. In a world beginning to find its feet following the effects of COVID-19, physical support and appreciation was shown for these individuals. However, it is often overlooked that the nature of their work leaves many of these front-line workers at risk of suffering from poor mental health [1]. There is an urgent need to address this issue and provide necessary support. The aim of this report is to highlight a genuine and widely-recognised crisis in mental health within the healthcare profession, and therefore a need for supporting trials to provide confidence in a novel care-giver-centred (holistic) approach.

Mental Illness Amongst Healthcare Professionals

One in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives [2]; suggesting that many healthcare workers will also be affected. Mental illness is argued to top the list of leading causes for global burden of disease [3]. It has been revealed that almost nine in ten employed within blue-light professions had experienced stress and poor mental health during their work term within the sector [4].

High rates of mental illness, burnout, overwork and poor morale is common amongst NHS and care staff [5]. This is due to the fact that highly stressful jobs are more likely to cause burnout due to the demanding nature of work, leading to reduced levels of motivation, decreased productivity and lower quality of work [6]. This condition may manifest even when the practitioner is totally unaware of it and has no insight into the way they are managing their workload.

The psychological impact of the global response to COVID-19 will long be felt throughout society. A considerable amount of fear and anxiety continues to exist around the topic. Healthcare professionals will be amongst those most affected due to being confronted by unprecedented and traumatic experiences during the pandemic [7]. This is an issue that needs to be addressed as it poses one of the biggest risks to a safe healthcare service, for its trusting patients and the staff themselves.

A Holistic Approach

The changing healthcare landscape, evolving cultural norms, and use of technology within the NHS bears the potential to have a beneficial impact on the mental health of healthcare providers. Workload needs to be more compassionately managed and support provided to ensure the effects of underlying traumatic experiences are treated appropriately. This need can be fulfilled by incorporating a holistic approach to mental health healing and well-being.

The Harmonizing Process, which is a combination of coaching and counselling, is well-placed as a useful therapeutic tool to be used to provide support for healthcare workers [8]. Previous studies have shown the likes of Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) [9] to promote positive mental health, by providing healthcare workers with increased job satisfaction, mindfulness and self-compassion [10]. Similarly, the Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), has shown to encourage an increase in feelings of social connection and empathy, which leads to practitioners dealing with their patients in a more compassionate manner [11]. Therefore, this report shows early indications of The Harmonizing Process’ promise when utilised by healthcare workers. Additional trials are required to determine the necessary data and confidence in providing evidence-based therapeutic support. Caritas Neuro Solutions is a company well positioned to manage such future studies and projects.

Materials and Methods 

Participants

Participants were self-referred UNISON members and the age range was 29-64. Cohort 1 comprised of 19 participants and Cohort 2 comprised of 20 participants. Both Cohorts 1 and 2 completed the WHOQOL-BREF [12] questionnaire to assess their quality of life, and Cohort 2 also completed a PHQ-9 questionnaire [13] to assess possible depression symptoms of the participants.

Literature Review

Current literature was researched from various resources including websites and articles regarding the existing landscape of mental illness amongst healthcare workers.