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Healthcare worker in PPE tying mask on

By Jessica Kennedy, Chief of Staff at Mental Health America

Our healthcare workers are heroes.

We should have known this - and recognized it - all along, but the COVID-19 pandemic has really shown us just how important our healthcare workers are. They work long hours, risk their own health, lose sleep, cry, skip meals, worry about their families, and keep our nation together.

We have all seen the tremendous impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on everyone, but it’s taken a particularly harsh toll on healthcare workers.

Now, it’s time for us to support them.

Here are ten ways to support the healthcare worker in your life:

  1. Tell them how much you appreciate them. Being a healthcare worker can be a thankless job. Express your gratitude regularly by thanking the healthcare worker in your life.
     
  2. Follow CDC guidelines. Not only are healthcare workers at increased risk for getting COVID-19, it will strain the health system if they do get it. Wear masks, practice social distancing, and quarantine yourself when needed according to CDC guidelines.
     
  3. Be a good listener. Your healthcare worker may have lost patients, dealt with work shortages, or worry about bringing infections into your home. If they want to talk to you, listen to them with your full attention. You don’t need to provide advice, and this isn’t the time to share judgment. Use eye contact and body language to show you’re engaged. Your loved one may have dealt with some difficult patients or family members at work and may just need to vent.
     
  4. Respect their need for distance - emotional or physical. Your healthcare worker may not want to talk about difficult things; don’t push them. The healthcare worker in your life may want to take even more precautions to protect your family - like sleeping in a garage or a separate room. Don’t guilt them or challenge them on the practices they need to keep your family safe. Don’t guilt them for leaving home to go to work.
     
  5. Donate food or other supplies to their workplaces. Be sure to ask what would be helpful - many workplaces can’t accept donations of masks or equipment from outside. When ordering food, consider common dietary restrictions (vegan/vegetarian, gluten free, kosher/Halal, and lactose intolerance). Cold food like sandwiches or salads may keep better than deliveries of hot food.
     
  6. Take on extra chores. Many families split chores evenly, but now is a good time to take on someone else’s tasks. It can be a huge relief to come home and find laundry done or the dishwasher emptied.
     
  7. Relieve their mental load. Mental load is a real thing - it’s the stress that comes from having to make decisions in a household. If you can do something without asking for permission, that can be even more helpful.
     
  8. Find an outlet for your fears and anxieties. You probably have a lot of fears and anxieties about COVID-19 too, including what might happen if your healthcare worker brings something home. That’s natural and understandable. If you can share your anxieties and concerns with another person - a friend, a peer, or your therapist - you can help relieve some of the stress on your healthcare worker.
     
  9. Give them a gift. There are many love languages, and some people feel the most love when they receive a gift. Think of something that your healthcare worker really likes--food, flowers, clothes, or other--and surprise them with a gift.
     
  10. Take care of yourself. If you want to support someone, you need to take care of yourself first. Take a mental health screen to check in on yourself.
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