Since 1949, May has been observed as Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States. During this month, we amplify the importance of reducing stigma and advocate for policies to support mental health. Mental health challenges affect many people, especially during disasters. Maintaining a positive outlook is important for yourself, your employees, and your community. Below are some mental health strategies and resources.
Personal Mental Health
It can be difficult to maintain a healthy work and life balance. See the strategies below to help manage stress and anxiety.
- Take action
- Feeling anxious or worried is to be expected. Share your concerns with colleagues, team members, family, or friends to problem solve and plan steps to help cope.
- Pace yourself
- Monitor yourself for disrupted sleep, excessive fatigue, irritability, poor focus, and marked anxiety. It becomes challenging to be a good team member and maintain healthy relationships with family and friends if you are running on empty.
- Try mindful breathing several times a day. Take a moment for low and slow breaths before getting out of your car, entering work, or a new room. Mindful breathing can help keep you calm and collected.
- Maintain good health habits
- Health habits can be neglected when stress levels are high. Try to prioritize drinking plenty of water, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and spending time outdoors.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise
- Aerobic exercise is vital for stress reduction. Consider walking, biking, running, hiking, yoga, playing catch, etc. A short walk or workout is better than nothing.
- Social connection
- Reach out to family, friends, and community groups to maintain social connections. You can call them or use video group platforms such as Zoom or Facetime to stay in touch and support each other.
- Take breaks at work and home
- Work with your team to take mini-breaks. Even a 10-minute break per shift can be calming and increase focus. At home, prioritize time to enjoy a book, movie, podcast, puzzle, or coloring book. Any of these can help give your mind a break from the day’s stress.
- Promote teamwork
- Let your team know if you have children or relatives who require care and see how they can assist you.
- Maintain structure at home
- If you are working from home and/or your children are doing school virtually, establish a consistent workplace and schedule to help with focus and productivity. Don’t forget to plan time for breaks as well.
- Be flexible
- Flexibility is essential. Each day brings unique stressors not previously experienced. Ask for support, assess the situation, make necessary changes, and move forward.
Employee Mental Health
Make sure you are checking on your employees and coworkers. Clinical and non-clinical staff members in hospitals and long-term care facilities have been on the frontlines during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. First responders also face a unique set of stressors in their jobs that can create mental health challenges for them and their families. There are several organizational strategies for stress prevention and management. See below for more details.
- Provide an effective management structure and leadership
- Follow a clear chain of command and reporting structure.
- Supervisors should be available and accessible.
- A disaster orientation should be held for all workers.
- Shifts should be no longer than 12 hours, followed by 12 hours off.
- Briefings should be held at the beginning of each shift and have overlapping shifts. This will allow outgoing workers to brief incoming workers.
- Make sure you have necessary supplies available (e.g., paper, pens, gloves, masks).
- Make sure you are using communication tools (e.g., cellphones, tablets, radios)
- Define clear goals and roles for each position
- Nurture team support
- Create a buddy system with employees. This will allow for to support and monitor stress reactions.
- Have employers promote a positive atmosphere with support, tolerance, and frequent praise.
- Develop a plan for stress management
- Check in on worker morale and output regularly.
- Employers should encourage short breaks throughout the day.
- Staff should be educated on on signs and symptoms of worker stress and coping strategies.
- Employers should provide resources or programs that your company may offer.
Seeking Mental Health Treatment
If the strategies listed above are not managing your stress or anxiety, consider professional mental health services (e.g., therapy). There are many different types of therapy, and therapists can have a variety of licensures and focus areas. Here are some tips to help find the right therapist for you:
- Look at your health insurance provider directory
- If you plan to pay for therapy using your health insurance, look at your provider’s network and how many sessions are covered each year.
- Ask someone you trust
- A referral from someone you know can be a good place to start. Ask them how their sessions are structured and see if it would be a good fit for you.
- Use a reliable online database
- There are several databases available. See the sources listed below.
- Explore local resources
- Your community may have resources available, especially if you are part of a subgroup seeking treatment. Local groups may include students, workplaces, domestic or sexual abuse therapy groups, and faith-based centers.
- Reach out to organizations that address your area of concern
- Organizations based around eating disorders, anxiety and depression, PTSD, as well as organizations for people of color, veterans, women, LGBTQ+ persons, disabled persons, bereaved persons, etc. are available and can provide lists of licensed therapists near you.
- Think about your goals ahead of time
- When you have clear goals of what you want to gain from therapy, your therapist can help you achieve them more directl If you believe you may require medication, find a clinical care provider who can prescribe medication.
- Try an online therapy app
- Apps such as Talkspace and Betterhelp offer tools to explore the type of therapy you want and match you with a licensed, accredited therapist you can work with online or over the phone.
- Digital therapy platforms can be more convenient and affordable – weekly sessions range from $35 – $80 for online therapy.
- Ask questions about the things that matter to you
- Examples of questions to ask a mental health professional: What are your certifications? How many years have you been practicing? What groups of people have you worked with? Have you worked with people dealing with (insert experience or issue)? What insurance do you accept? Do you bill the insurance company directly, or do you require payment upfront, then I seek reimbursement from the insurance company? Do you accept Medicare or Medicaid? If I need medication, can you prescribe it?
- Pay close attention to your responses
- No matter how qualified your therapist is, your feelings of trust and comfort should be your top priority. Does your therapist listen to you or interrupt you? Do they validate your concerns?
Seeking Immediate Help
If you feel you are in crisis or distress and want to seek immediate help, many crisis lines are available for help.
- Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL)
- The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Disabilities has a toll-free number individuals can call for access to care in a crisis. The Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) links callers with trained professionals who provide the most appropriate linkage to care for mental health crises, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse crises.
- The Number is 1-800-715-4225.
- Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line
- The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities also operates the Georgia COVID-19 Emotional Support Line to assist people who have been emotionally, physically, or financially impacted by COVID-19. The Emotional Support Line is free, confidential, and anonymous. Trained mental health professionals are available to provide a “listening ear” to Georgians who need emotional support and referrals to resources in their communities.