When your loved one is a healthcare provider during a pandemic, it’s expected they will focus on treating patients and reducing the risk of spreading coronavirus and spend far less time considering how Covid may be affecting their own physical and mental health. During this unprecedented period, the emotional, mental, and physical demands associated with jobs like theirs may overwhelm them and lead them to drugs and alcohol as a short-term solution to cope with their feelings. Today, let’s talk about how to recognize the signs someone you love in the healthcare field is using and what steps you can help them take to seek treatment.
Healthcare providers who are working on the front lines of the pandemic and caring for others may experience an increased risk of substance use disorders if mental health concerns begin to significantly impact their well-being. As a family member of a healthcare provider, you can look for obvious signs of increased substance use, recognize any notable changes in their mental health, and encourage them to remain connected with friends and family and practice healthy strategies for reducing stress. If a substance use and co-occurring mental health disorder appear to be causing harm to them personally and professionally, you can provide support for your loved one in the search for suitable treatment.
Look for obvious signs of increased substance use first.
Based on what you have seen in the past, you may notice changes in the frequency of your loved one’s drinking after a shift or changes in the amount of drinking. If they take prescription medication for anxiety, for example, you may notice them take pills more often or have to refill a prescription more frequently. The healthcare provider with a developing dependence on drugs or alcohol may stop coming home directly after work in order as well to mask their use of substances.
Be aware of signs of ongoing anxiety or changes in mental health.
Mental health changes can show up in a variety of ways: irritation, restless nights, changes in appetite, mood swings, and more. When these symptoms appear daily over a period of weeks or becoming more severe, it can reveal the presence of a mental health disorder. A change in your loved one’s mental health can intensify the stress of work demands in a high-risk environment and lead to more substance use in the hours when they’re not working.
Note when your loved one appears to isolate themselves from others.
If your loved one doesn’t live with anyone, it can be easier for them to isolate and point to the pandemic as the reason. Isolation isn’t merely physical, it can involve cutting off or reducing connection with family and friends. While reaching out to them can help them to reconnect during a difficult time, their choice of isolation may indicate a more severe mental health concern is developing.
Invite them to join you for healthy ways to manage stress.
If you notice your loved one is not spending any time with self-care, it’s a sign they need some help or some strategies to manage the stress caused by their jobs. Some strategies to reduce stress can involve physical activities, including walking, running, or biking, as well as conversation or meditation. Your loved one may need some encouragement to join you and may be more willing to participate if the options include something you know they enjoy.
Offer your support if your loved one’s substance use begins to affect their health and work.
As the pandemic rages on, the effects of substance use by healthcare providers may touch every aspect of their personal and professional lives. As a family member, your support can be valuable in guiding them towards solutions for both their recovery and the restoring of their mental health. Treatment options available to them include age-specific and gender-specific treatment, or a program designed for impaired professionals. These options will allow your loved one to create connections with peers who have had similar issues with substance use and with whom they may discover they share much common ground in life experiences of personal loss, career challenges, parenting demands, and more.
Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting recovery.
For information on our programs, call us today: 561-841-1033.