University Medical Center offers free mental health services to health, safety workers

University Medical Center offers free mental health services to health, safety workers
First responders often function at a high level of stress. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to that stress significantly because such professionals can't avoid interacting with the public. (contributed)

In an effort to assist those in Tuscaloosa working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, University Medical Center is offering free mental health services to first responders and health care providers.

“First responders and health care providers are often functioning at a high level of stress, which may negatively impact their thinking and emotional responses to situations,” said Dr. Martha Crowther, associate dean for research and health policy at the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences and a practicing psychologist at UMC.

“It is important to be able to function optimally during this crisis,” she said. “Providing these workers with a way to alleviate some of their distress will hopefully help them function at their best.”

The College operates UMC.

While people are told to stay home as much as possible during the novel coronavirus outbreak, most first responders and health care providers cannot. These front-line workers continue to respond to emergencies, and they often have the added stress of not knowing if the people they help have the virus.

“We have seen an increase in the levels of distress our patients are experiencing,” said Crowther. “We hope to provide first responders and health care providers with strategies to cope more effectively with daily stressors and the additional distress they are confronting as a result of the crisis.”

There are things individuals can do at home to protect their mental health during the crisis. Crowther suggests engaging in physical activity, such as walking, bike riding and swimming, limiting news to avoid becoming overwhelmed, getting good sleep, eating healthy, creating a daily routine and finding positive aspects of the crisis.

The mental health services for health care workers and first responders are conducted via telehealth so patients can adhere to social distancing guidelines. Short appointments are also available for patients who don’t have a lot of time but need to process their thoughts and emotions.

The services include individual and group therapy options. Video resources on topics that include anxiety and depression are also available.

The services can also be available to others besides first responders and health care providers. For information or to schedule an individual or group session, visit umc.ua.edu/acru, email [email protected] or call 205-348-7802.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

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