University of Mississippi Medical Center creates mental health program for employees exhausted by COVID-19

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GRENADA, Miss. (WCBI) — On Monday, the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced it was creating a new mental health support program to help employees deal with emotional exhaustion from the pandemic.

“We have stressful jobs. All the employees here, we take care of the patients,” says Cristy Seibel, director of clinical operations at UMMC Grenada. “You add the pandemic to it? We had no idea how overwhelming it would get.

For doctors, nurses, or any other healthcare worker, they know that long hours, stress, and a heavy workload are part of the job.

“It could take 16 hours, then have to sleep for a few hours and come back immediately,” says Seibel.

But as COVID-19 continues to fill Mississippi hospitals, they need someone to care for them.

“The pandemic has been an emotional rollercoaster for employees,” says Seibel. “Where COVID cases have gone up and numbers have gone down.”

According to the American Hospital Association, 50% of healthcare workers surveyed in 2020 said managing their emotional well-being was the hardest part of the pandemic.

In 2021, this number has increased to 75%.

Sara Frances Horan, physician and director of community relations at UMMC Grenada, says it’s not just doctors and nurses who are feeling the pressure.

“Our dietary team, our housekeeping team, they all play such an important role in what we do to care for patients,” she says. “So on every level, they’re all affected.”

The mental wellness program includes access to screenings and treatment from mental health counselors and a psychiatry professor to determine the best counseling course or other treatment options.

“It can be completely anonymous,” says Seibel. “They can do it on their shift if they need help right away.”

It will also offer online modules with mental and physical self-care tips.

“How to sleep when you just can’t sleep, or how to eat a balanced diet when working a 12-hour shift,” says Horan.

Seibel says just knowing they have someone to turn to will make all the difference.

“Someone is there to support you,” she said. “You are stressed. You are exhausted. And we will help.

The program is managed by the UMMC Office of Wellness and funded by a $3 million grant. They hope it will be operational within a few weeks.

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