August 27, 2020 By Julie Rael, LCSW, CCO Valley Behavioral Health Our team has been working non-stop since March to support our employee’s psychological resiliency. Many in our society are experiencing crisis fatigue, and we must empower our team members so they can continue providing such important work. This pandemic has been likened to longer-term crisis situations where individuals experience confusion, fear, loneliness, and isolation, with no clear end in sight. People are also expressing feeling disappointed, disconnected, and depressed. As we brace for a possible resurgence of the virus in the coming months, we must equip ourselves with a resiliency mindset. The crisis fatigue is not entirely due to the current pandemic. It is a culmination of multiple issues that include racial injustice, political tension, unemployment, and economic uncertainties. The sheer number of issues we are facing has only compounded the stress and fear many of us are feeling. Before the pandemic, the behavioral health system in our nation was already trying to manage staff shortages. These shortages have become magnified during this time and require even more attention as to how to we provide a safe environment for our behavioral health staff. At Valley, we are operationally prepared to continue providing services that ensure the safety of our patients and employees. We have stocked PPE and cleaning supplies, as well as and implementing SOPs, but one of the most pressing matters is how we will continue to support our employee’s resiliency and mental health during this time. As clinicians, supporting resiliency, implementing self-care, and preventing secondary trauma has become ingrained in our psyche to help manage the natural hazards of working in the behavioral health field. I continue to learn about and implement new strategies to support my psychological health. I encourage those I lead to practice these strategies as well, but there are times we may feel like we are running on autopilot. Navigating our patient’s needs while dealing with our own crisis needs can be overwhelming. We need to remain vigilant, continue to adapt and modify the strategies we use to support our psychological resiliency and prevent crisis fatigue from taking hold and dragging us down. Over the past few weeks, I have grappled with what I can do to continue to support my team’s resiliency. Last week, my colleague and I met up in person to work on a project to provide remote training for our clinicians. As we discussed on our plan of action, we began talking about our observations around other areas of need, concerning our clinicians, and how we can make some adaptions to strengthen their resiliency. We began talking about the various challenges we’ve endured as professionals, working in our organization over the years. As we shared the details of our experiences, I thought about how trying those times were, how impossible the adversity felt, and how inadequate I felt at times. Reflecting back, I also saw how we endured and started forming a resiliency mindset. We grew and learned from the various challenges we faced. Talking about those experiences highlighted the common experiences we share, and how each of us have a strong base of resiliency to draw upon now. It helped clarify how this mindset has carried us through and supported our accomplishments during this pandemic. A resilient mindset is truly much stronger than fear as it develops from experiences, knowledge, wisdom, optimism, and a sense of purpose by dealing with and overcoming difficult challenges. Clinicians often refer to this transformational process as “post-traumatic growth”. Towards the end of our conversation, my colleague and I began to laugh at some of the scenarios we endured. Not because our struggles were humorous, but because they were very difficult. We overcame them and we no longer feared them. Our organization’s situation has improved dramatically since before those challenging times, and it continues to be a truly rewarding and enjoyable place to continue providing essential services. My colleague ended our conversation on what we will be working on in the coming months to continue to support our staff’s resiliency. As I reflect on our conversation and recent events that left me feeling stuck and my creativity stifled, I couldn’t help but think that our conversation was not coincidental. A lot has happened during these past six months and I had briefly forgotten all that we have accomplished, which has always been a source of inspiration and hope to continue to enduring when things become difficult. I urge those reading this to remember what you have overcome. See it as a well of personal resiliency you can draw from and be refreshed by. Use your stories as a source of meaning and inspiration and find others to share them with. During these upcoming weeks, I will continue to write about topics related to personal resiliency in the hope that it will help support others during this challenging journey in our history.