Mental Health Article Series #3 – Potential Solutions: Supporting the Clinical Demands of Activity Professionals
The NAAP membership, in article two, From the Frontlines of the Activity Profession, of this series, shared challenges and changes the COVID-19 Pandemic brought to senior living services. Increased conflict amongst interdisciplinary team members, additional non-related Activity Service tasks requested by organizations, staffing shortages, witnessing the loss of function within residents, social isolation, death of residents, staff, and lingering grief. The emotional toll of decreased confidence decreased motivation and specifically the witnessing of human suffering.
Trauma is not always punctual, neat, and tidy. Meaning it can show close to the traumatic event or may show up in a delayed response “months, sometimes years after an event, says Tamar Rodney, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. And “even as the pandemic eased, there was still a risk for trauma-related effects. We need to be paying attention to the warning signs, like irritability, trouble sleeping, drinking more than usual, fatigue, loss of joy,” she said.
“In other words, address the symptoms as they come.”
Healthline.com defines “trigger” as anything that might cause a person to recall a traumatic experience they’ve had. Graphic images of violence might be a trigger for some people. Less obvious things, including songs, odors, or even colors, can also be triggers, depending on someone’s experience.
When Trauma is Triggered at Work, an article published in February 2022 by Lexie Manion for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), shared “1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness each year, so, inevitably, some employees will experience days where they need a moment to address their mental health and regroup. As we envision a healthier workplace that prioritizes mental health, it’s essential for employers to understand this potential for “bad” days and provide the necessary support and accommodations. Additionally, as individuals, we need to be aware of what our personal triggers are and what therapeutic coping skills work best for us.”
Resource: https://nami.org/Support-Education/Video-Resource-Library, a fantastic, grass roots organization with chapters in counties across the nation.
The pandemic lingers like a dark shadow creating an anxious tension. How do we continue to navigate uncertain times while caring for ourselves and others?
Showing up for one another is the most important thing.
As a leader-manager cultivate an atmosphere of open and honest conversations. As a team member be aware of signs that someone on the team is struggling. As an individual, advocate for your mental health and wellbeing.
The Harvard Business Review mentioned the recent surge of adults with symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders increased from 36.4% to 41.5% from 2020 to 2021 in the article, How to Respond When an Employee Shares a Mental Health Challenge. Daisy Auger-Dominguez, chief people officer at Vice Media Group stated: “We are not therapists, [but] we must show evidence of care in our engagement with our teams. We also must ensure employees have access to the things that they need to be able to do their work well.” Auger-Dominguez goes on to share this simple question when a team member seems distressed, she asks:
“Do you need me to witness, help, or distract you right now?”
Being a witness provides your presence, listening ear. Helping is asking how you can help while distraction offers in-the-moment strategies for easing distress, such as taking a walk, offering to look out a window and notice and name a few details. These suggestions can work for all of us!
Resource: Feet on the Floor: Grounding Technique, Diana Tikasz, MSW, RSW. A simple and effective strategy to help manage stress reactions. https://www.tendacademy.ca/videos/ 6 min
Be gentle on yourself. Continue to show up for one another. It’s the most important thing.
Nancy Richards, NAAP Education Council
Four Part Series
Article #1 June 27, 2022
Disrupted: Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 on Activity Professionals in Senior Living
NAAP Mental Health Membership Survey July 11, 2022
Article #2 November 10, 2022
From the Frontlines of the Activity Profession: NAAP Membership Survey Results & Reflections
Article #3 January 2, 2023
Potential Solutions: Supporting the Clinical Demands of Activity Professionals
Article #4 TBA
Activity Services During the Pandemic: How One Discipline Emerged, Adapted and Cultivated Hope for Senior Communities