Protecting Mental Health
Project HOPE is helping health care workers around the world protect their mental health and cope with the stressors of their work.
An Invisible Burden
Mental health issues are a reality of life in every community, in every country, on every continent. Yet millions of people carry their burdens in silence.
The impact of mental health on our physical health runs deep. Emotional and psychological wounds can be just as catastrophic as physical ones. The challenges and stressors of COVID-19 have taken a major toll on mental health worldwide, especially among women and health care workers.
Mental health is a human right — and everyone deserves access to the care they need to reach their full potential. In Ecuador, Indonesia, Cambodia, and beyond, we’re training frontline health care workers to protect their own mental wellness while responding to crises like COVID-19.
A Global Crisis
Mental health issues are on the rise around the world. Depression has become a leading cause of disability worldwide, while suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people ages 15 to 29. One in four people will experience mental illness at some point in their lives, and half of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24.
Tragically, two-thirds of people don’t receive the care they need, even though there are effective treatments. The availability of specialized mental health services is even more limited in developing countries, where 76% to 85% of people suffering from mental conditions lack access to care.
Barriers to treatment include lack of resources and trained health workers, but the social stigma and shame surrounding mental health is often the greatest impediment to care.
The already grim mental health crisis has only been compounded by COVID-19, with millions of people experiencing the emotional and psychological effects of the worst global health emergency of our lives. The fear of the virus, the weight of uncertainty, the strain on finances, the need to continuously adapt, the isolation from friends and family, the experience of loss — these are daily stressors felt around the world for the past two years.
Health workers are among the most vulnerable to the mental health effects of the pandemic. COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on nurses and doctors, with high rates of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and distress reported among frontline health workers. More than half of those responding to the virus have experienced mental health issues.
Whether responding in the face of disaster or crisis, or the result of years of work in a difficult environment, nurses, doctors, and other health workers face incredible levels of stress and demand. Before the pandemic, doctors were already twice as likely to die by suicide.
As anxiety, depression, loneliness, and other mental health concerns increase, so will the need for mental health services, making it more important than ever that we invest in support programs that respond to mental health issues.
How Project HOPE Is Addressing Mental Health
Project HOPE is working to build a world where everyone has access to quality care — and that includes health care for health workers.
To address the toll of COVID-19 on mental health, Project HOPE is implementing mental health and resiliency trainings for frontline health workers. Originally piloted in the Dominican Republic and Indonesia with support from the Abbott Fund, the training is expanding across five continents and reaching some of the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities, thanks to generous support from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and the Medtronic Foundation.
The training modules are adapted to local contexts and based on the Healing, Education, Resilience & Opportunity for New York’s Frontline Workers (HERO-NY) program, a train-the-trainer series developed by New York City Health + Hospitals in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense. The training includes five sessions:
- Stress, Trauma, and Resiliency
- Personal and Professional Wellness
- Impact, Effect, and Outcome on Frontline Workers
- Seeking Help for Ourselves and Others
- Resilience and Wellness Program Development
Held both in-person and online, the trainings give health care workers stress management and coping tools for self-care. Together, participants talk openly about burnout, exhaustion, and compassion fatigue — an important step in reducing stigma and normalizing a support system that is often overlooked in clinical settings.
To ensure continual progress and improvement, we are carefully monitoring and evaluating the experiences of those who participate in trainings. As part of this effort, trainees take self-care and lifestyle surveys before, during, and after the trainings which access the impact on their level of burnout.
Impact That Lasts
For more than 60 years, Project HOPE has worked to support local health workers in building a healthier world — and that starts with prioritizing and protecting their own health and well-being.
In the shadows of COVID-19, we are providing a lifeline of hope for tens of thousands of health workers around the world.
Project HOPE’s mental health and resilience trainings will serve 51,000 healthcare workers across five continents. Around 1,000 workers will participate in initial training sessions — more than 75% of them women — and each trainee will then cascade the training to reach 50,000 participants.
The training has been translated into multiple languages, with the long-term goal of providing training during other global health emergencies, natural disasters, and humanitarian crises, when support is needed most.
How you can help
Make a lifesaving gift to support our work now and for the future at projecthope.org/donate
Are you a health-care or other professional who would like to learn more about volunteering abroad with Project HOPE? Learn more about our volunteer program and join our volunteer roster.
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