Mental Health Professionals will be on the Frontlines for Years after COVID-19

In times like these we remember that freedom isn’t free and soldiers fight for us every day. Our healthcare workers are fighting this unprecedented pandemic and putting themselves at risk daily. They already do so on a normal day, but on these unusual days they are stepping up to the plate even more. They already work 24hr shifts on a regular day and come home exhausted, but today even more so. We all know there are so many on the frontlines of COVID- health care workers, lab techs, food industry, farmers, transportation employees, delivery services, retail employees, scientists and data engineers, public health and government officials, each and every one of us staying home to keep others safe, and so. many. more.

When we think about healthcare workers, we absolutely should be thanking them just as we thank our military for their service. Another industry that is also on the forefront of this pandemic, and will be for years to come, is our mental health professionals. As anxiety, depression, trauma, fear, and uncertainty continue to rise and unfold after this is over, our mental health professionals will be there day in and day out. Often forgotten as a part of the healthcare industry, our mental health professionals work tirelessly, putting themselves at risk of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, personal triggers, and physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion for the sake of others. They also do so within an industry that often forgets they’re even part of the family, and does not fully understand the necessity of the work they provide.

Have you ever sat with a friend, who was going through a hard time, and tried to offer them support?…This is what mental health professionals do every. single. day. x 10.

I have a Masters Degree in Counseling, and have been trained as a therapist. I have sat with clients and listened and connected for hours. I know what it feels like to be exhausted and empty without any more compassion or kindness or empathy left for myself or anyone around me. I have given of myself day in and day out with the same measure a doctor cares for their patients. (I also learned later how better self-care and boundaries can significantly help compassion fatigue and burnout.)

Have you ever sat with a friend, who was going through a hard time, and tried to offer them support? Have you done so extendedly for a friend who’s ‘hard time’ lasted a long time? This is what mental health professionals do x 10. They give of themselves for the care of others.

And. it. is. LIFE CHANGING.

I have experienced life changing results from the professional care therapists have given to me. They gave of their time, of their energy, of their compassion and empathy, of their mind and planning and resources. They have helped me learn how to set boundaries, learn what boundaries even are, and why having them can help keep me healthy and happier. They have walked with me through the depths of despair and pain and heartache. Through tears and questions and terrifying feelings of wanting to be far away from everything in life, including life itself. They have sat with me through panic attacks and confusing experiences of trauma- shaking and crying and shortness of breath that felt like it would never end.

In my life story- therapists are heroes.

They have helped me learn that it is ok to feel emotions, it’s good even, and it helps me so much more to feel them than to pretend they’re not there. Therapists have helped me learn how to love myself and love others more fully, how to be kind to myself and compassionate. They have helped me learn how to cope with anxiety and depression and even taking medication to help me through the hardest of times. They have listened and asked questions and challenged me to grow. They have changed my life for the better time and time again. In my life story- therapists are heroes.

THANK YOU Mental Health Professionals for all that you do day in and day out. You’re on the frontlines today, and you will be every day after this. You’ll be there for the people isolated and stuck at home. You’ll be there for the first responders and doctors, who are grappling with what they are seeing and experiencing. You’ll be there for the spouses and partners who feel alone and neglected. You’ll be there for the children and the adults, who don’t feel safe in their homes. You’ll be there for the individuals who don’t feel safe in their own bodies or in their own minds. You’ll be there for the individuals who are thinking about taking their own life. You’ll be there through the uncertainty, through the pain, through the fear, through the heartache, but also through the celebrations and the growth. You’ll be there through it all, and you’ll give more and more of yourself as you do. To all mental health professionals- THANK YOU. Please care for yourself in the same manner as you care for others. For all the rest of us- if you know a mental health professional send them a thank you today. Give them a shout out if they’ve changed your life for the better!

We’ll get through this together, and we’ll be there for each other on the other side.

We are all connected at the human level, and I think we see this today more than ever. If you’re a human and you’ve ever felt pain, ever felt fear, ever felt anything at all- you’re someone a therapist goes to work every day for, and you’re someone they believe wholeheartedly that change, hope, and health is a possibility for. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others, y’all. We’ll get through this together, and we’ll be there for each other on the other side.

For anyone who has never been to therapy or has had the terribly unfortunate experience of not having a positive experience of therapy- remember that you are not alone, and finding a good therapist can often be like dating- it can take some time to find the right fit.

Diana Kirby, MS is a Partner with Try On Therapy and also a Program Manager for the State of Tennessee Mental Health Department. She oversees a program that assists transitional age youth and young adults in receiving mental health care and referrals as they shift from child & youth serving systems into adult serving systems. She is passionate about empowering others, winning the argument that all dogs should be called puppies, reducing stigma surrounding mental health issues, and fostering creativity and authenticity in others and in herself.

Twitter: @dianamkirby

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