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FINDING HOPE: St. Luke's focuses on mental health among health care workers

September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month
Posted at 3:39 PM, Sep 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-21 17:39:24-04

BOISE, Idaho — The coronavirus pandemic is putting unprecedented stress on health care workers and leaders at St. Luke's are making sure staff members have access to mental health resources.

The hospital system offers a variety of programs, ranging from yoga and counseling referrals to a critical incident stress management team, to support workers.

Dr. Beth Gray, St. Luke’s system director of practice, employee safety and well-being, said she has seen an increase in staff using the programs.

"Clearly, it’s been really stressful. The longevity of this and not having an end in sight has been really tough on the team," Gray said. "Just when you think we’re getting over one hurdle, another surge comes up and you think you’re back to where you started."

One of the most popular programs for staff is called “sprinkling yoga throughout your day” and Gray said recently they had 300 staff participate. They are offering resources virtually as much as possible.

“People are recognizing that they are vulnerable and that they are looking for ways to keep themselves whole to be able to go ahead and take care of themselves,” Gray said. “Our mission at Luke’s is to be patient-centered, but we recognize there is no way we can do that without this employee focus and make sure they feel good about the environment as well as (provide) the resources that we can provide them to take good care of themselves.”

That Critical Incident Stress Management Team is used when an especially stressful incident happens and a worker or team of workers needs to debrief about what workers need, said Gray.

“(It’s used) to normalize those feelings of sometimes inadequacy or fears and being able to share that common experience of what happened in that situation,” Gray said.

St. Luke’s Health System is hosting a community behavioral health webinar for the public on Sept. 24. Registration can be found at https://www.stlukesonline.org/communities-and-locations/classes-and-events/reduce-the-stigma.

"Idaho’s at a level where we’re leading the country in an area we don’t want to be leading the country in. We’re in the top five of number of suicides, and for various age groups including our youth which is really frightening and scary," Dr. Christopher Edwards said.

Edwards says some groups are at higher risk of suicide than others.
"Our LGBT community is at much higher risk, our veteran community is at higher risk, our Native American and American Indian groups are at much higher risk and a lot of different communities that a lot of people don’t always recognize are at higher risk and we want to make sure people recognize that," Edwards said.

NEED HELP?

Suicide prevention hotlines are available for people who feel suicidal, or people who are concerned about a loved one and need guidance or resources. All calls are confidential and anonymous. The following resources are available any time of day:

  • Call or text the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 208-398-4357
  • Chat online with the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at idahosuicideprevention.org
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255. Callers may use English or Spanish.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also offers an online chat option for people who may be deaf or hearing impaired at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
  • If you are feeling like you want to harm yourself, providers encourage residents to seek medical assistance immediately. Any local emergency room could offer assistance.

WARNING SIGNS

According to Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, some people with suicidal tendencies may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Threatening suicide
  • Talking or writing about suicide
  • Isolation or withdrawal
  • Agitation, especially combined with sleeplessness
  • Nightmares
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Seeking methods to kill oneself
  • Feeling hopeless or trapped
  • Co-occurring depression, moodiness and hopelessness
  • Unexplained anger, aggression or irritability
  • Recent loss of family member or friend through divorce, suicide or other death
  • Changes in eating, sleeping, personal care or other patterns
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Taking unnecessary risks/recklessness
  • No longer interested in favorite activities or hobbies

Portions of this article were written by Ruth Brown from the Idaho Statesman.