Frontline workers discuss mental health impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

One year later, many are dealing with stress and mental health issues

ROANOKE, Va – While many people have been working from home for the last year, healthcare providers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic since the beginning.

Now, mental health professionals are looking at the potential long-term impacts COVID-19 has had on healthcare providers.

After a stressful year of treating sick and dying patients, healthcare workers say there may be a light at the end of the tunnel as more vaccine becomes available.

When Sam Benham joined the nursing staff at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital five years ago as a registered nurse, he could have never imagined being on the frontlines of a global pandemic.

“A lot of times we will see these patients and like, I know I don’t think they’re going to make it out of here. Really tough,” Benham said.

Benham works as an ICU nurse and has been treating COVID-19 patients for the majority of the last year.

“Seeing the amount of patients and how critical they are, it can take a toll on all of us,” Benham said.

Healthcare workers in Roanoke aren’t taking that toll alone.

According to Mental Health America, 93% of healthcare workers have felt stressed or overwhelmed in the last year.

“I think that those people who have been most impacted are seeing the most mental health impacts as well,” Karen Pillis with Family Service of Roanoke Valley said.

Pillis says it’s completely natural that frontline workers are feeling the impact of the last year.

She says just because more people are getting vaccinated, doesn’t mean the stresses and fears of the last year will just disappear.

“The mental health effects lasts much longer there’s, and I believe in this case, we have not even begun to see like the next wave,” Pillis said.

Benham says he is thankful to have colleagues who value the importance of mental health and the resources Carilion provides to make sure staff can get what they need.

“It definitely affects us, even if it’s just a little bit, but I feel like up there we definitely have like a good relationship we have good resources you know we all kind of talk and, you know, we have each other’s back,” Benham said.

Family Service of Roanoke Valley is offering four free short-term sessions to anyone who may be experiencing stress or anxiety from the pandemic.

For more information, visit its website here.

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