“Each week feels like a mountain”: The impact of COVID-19 on mental health providers’ well-being and clinical work.
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The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic has placed a tremendous strain on health care providers. Although there is a burgeoning body of literature on how COVID-19 has impacted frontline health care workers (i.e., providers treating COVID-19 patients), little attention has been dedicated to second-line workers (i.e., providers treating the mental health of people impacted by COVID-19). In this article, we present findings from a thematic analysis of open-text responses (n = 136) examining how COVID-19 shaped both the well-being of second-line workers, specifically mental health providers, as well as their clinical work in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Results indicated that mental health providers were experiencing significant COVID-19-related burnout and poor physical and mental health outcomes. Participants described diminished negative effects on the quality of their clinical care from the burnout and trauma associated with COVID-19. Many also demonstrated resilience, identifying the duality of both negative (e.g., exhaustion) and positive (e.g., pride in helping others) meaning derived from their second-line work experiences. We conclude with recommendations for preventing and addressing burnout among mental health professionals in the era of COVID-19 and subsequent health emergencies.
Given the long-term nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is imperative we identify and address the needs of mental health care providers as they serve their communities during the pandemic. This article describes the psychological burnout, trauma, and exhaustion experienced by mental health providers in the United States, as well as the meaning derived from being part of the COVID-19 public health response. Based on these findings, we offer recommendations to support mental health care providers to prevent and address burnout, promote personal wellness, and foster sustainable work practices.