Austin hospital workers still seeking mental health help as COVID-19 cases decrease


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Things are turning toward normalcy, but we aren’t out of the clear just yet as nurses and doctors continue to care for COVID-19 patients.

Ascension Seton says more employees are seeking mental health help, and throughout the pandemic, they have made more resources available to help them out.

“Definitely we saw a greater number of people reaching out,” said Derek Covert, chief mission integration officer with Ascension Texas. “We started looking at how we can be present and responding.”

Ascension offers a number of resources for their employees, from counselors to talk about certain issues, downloadable apps to help figure out what kind of help someone might need, crisis hotlines and they are working on even more ways to help moving forward.

“Some of the things we have developed since COVID started and some of this within the first three months (of the pandemic), we started what is called a My Care program,” Covert said. “You will also hear it as ‘We Care,’ as well because of some of the tools in the project, but we have it online and we put this out in flyers and try to make it as accessible as available as possible. They can have anything addressed from physical health to spiritual health, mental health, emotional health, relational health, occupational health.”

Dr. Lowell McRoberts, a psychiatrist with the Ascension hospital system says the pandemic has put added stress on our healthcare workers. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and worker burnout are all on the rise in healthcare workers.

“I think everyone has seen something awful in the ICU, but to have six months straight of seeing the same thing over and over again is traumatizing and damaging,” McRoberts said. “They are all a population that is used to giving help and not getting help.”

McRoberts says as the pandemic has continued more people are starting to reach out for help.

“As everyone else is taking a breath and stepping back, they are still in it, and it hits hard and it is difficult,” said McRoberts.

A study from Marquette Univerity’s College of Nursing showed a rise in depression, anxiety and PTSD for nurses since the start of the pandemic.

Supportive care sessions are also used to discuss what is going on with managers, and allow those in charge to learn the signs and symptoms of mental health issues that may arise.

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