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Health care workers in need of mental health support amid pandemic burnout


Health care workers are the backbone of the health care system. Before and during the pandemic they have been suffering from burnout, mentally and physically.

“They went from heroes to zeros,” said Miranda Ferrier, the CEO of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association. “That is what my membership likes to call it. They feel like they’ve been forgotten.”

Since the fall of 2021, Ferrier said PSWs have been in short supply, as many of them have experienced an increase in violence and harassment both on the job and online.

“We’ve seen a huge increase of personal support workers being diagnosed with PTSD and stress-related mental health issues,” said Ferrier.

Michael Hurley, the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions for CUPE, says many of those in healthcare are now experiencing something called ‘moral injury.’

“In other words, they themselves are injured... No matter how hard they work no matter if they work through their breaks or lunches or stay late, they can never make up for the fact that they can’t give people the care they need," he said.

According to Hurley, many health care institutions are operating with a significantly low number of workers.

"The problem with Ontario is that going into the pandemic, we had the second fewest number of staff working in long term care of any province," he added.

With increased hospitalizations, staff shortages, extra-long shifts, combined with putting themselves at risk for contracting COVID-19, those working in health care need support now more than ever.

While many in the profession believe these issues need to be tackled first in order to make a real difference, psychology professor Paul Frewen at Western University encourages people to seek mental health support available to them.

“There are ways to access care safely at a physical distance as well. Much research has gone into the internet delivery of mental health care and it is seen to be comparable as to face to face care,” said Frewen.

Ferrier says her association offers free mental health and self-wellness webinars every month for PSW’s and other health care professionals across Ontario.

“Because we believe they need to have that comradery, they need to know their colleagues are going through the same thing they’re going through and that they’re not alone,” Ferrier concluded. Top Stories

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