Added stress of pandemic has mental health professionals using same coping strategies they prescribe

Health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — COVID-19 has not only threatened our physical health, but our mental health as well.

Over the past 18 months, people have been encouraged to seek out professional care to cope with the added stress of the pandemic.

From people dealing with job loss and being cooped up at home to the challenging uncertainty of it all, psychologists and therapists have seen an increase in new patients, adding to their already stressful workload.

When health care workers end their shifts, they physically leave their work at the hospital, but they bring with them the emotional toll the long hours and weight of human suffering have had on their well-being.

“It does affect all of us. Me included. This is an interesting experience where we’re all affected by COVID in some way,” Dr. Kristy Dalrymple said.

Dalrymple is on the front lines of treating patients’ mental and behavioral health at Rhode Island Hospital. She tells 12 News that much like doctors in the ICU, mental health professionals have been faced with an incredible amount of stress in helping so many people through this difficult time.

“As things started to settle into this new way of life, that’s when it started to hit and people were recognizing, ‘you know, I’m experiencing a bit more stress related to what’s going on. I’m trying to manage all these things in my life,'” she explained. “That’s when we really started to see an increase.”

Add in the fact that appointments went virtual, which eliminated the personal touch of meeting with people face to face, causing these workers to experience the same feelings of loneliness and isolation they’re helping their patients work through, according to Dalrymple.

“We’re sitting in an office where for a whole day, we may not see another person in person, so it can be really helpful to stay connected with others,” she said.

As such, many mental health professionals have turned to the same coping mechanisms they had been suggesting for their patients. Dalrymple said for her, a five-minute walk in the fresh air outside her office helps get her through the day.

“It was important before the pandemic and also especially now for, as behavioral health providers, for us to take care of ourselves and to develop those strategies to be able to take care of ourselves when we’re at home, throughout the day at work, so that we’re better able to help those around us,” Dalrymple added.

Dalrymple advised anyone having a difficult time right now to seek help, saying it can make a world of difference.

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