By – Dr. Jyoti Kapoor, Senior Psychiatrist and Founder, Manasthali
We stay in touch with our friends and family. I think that is where a person is always heard. Working in the healthcare field is to deal with different cases every day. Accidents, surgeries, flu, infections, and the chaotic times of the pandemic. Our training, and the ability to deal with these cases pretty much prepare us for the same. Managing them and understanding the psychological issues behind each one of them, is somewhere exhausting for us.
Each of us finds peace in our home. That is where we look for our mental health to be heard and understood. As a healthcare worker, the world would not understand that we need attention too but family is where we can rely upon. If we feel low or challenged, we have professionals like us who are ready to listen. But we need to open up for the same. There are many people out there who are ready to listen and help.
Maintaining healthy habits and giving time to socializing is also a great way of keeping the mind happy.
What kind of challenges do you often come across while taking care of your mental health?
During the pandemic, every healthcare worker was working round the clock. We were giving up on our eating habits, and sleeping schedules. Our families were at risk and hence many of us completely avoided the thought of going home after work. We did not see them for many days and would hardly get any time to communicate over the phone.
There was no time for anything and mental health was out of the question. This was one of the biggest challenges that we have faced. Due to a lack of medications and services, it was out of our hands to heal any of it when required. Long working hours barely leave any time for us to realize and act upon our mental health issues. These are some of the unmanageable issues we have dealt with.
At what stage of your career you’ve recognized your mental health issues and what did you do to overcome them?
Perhaps at the stage when cases start coming and pressure is built. People who work day and night in treating others fail to pay attention to themselves. We do start getting hints that there are serious problems with our mental health. But this is something we try to neglect because there are cases to handle and criticality in surgeries, accidents, etc.
I think we recognize issues at the very beginning of our career and we also understand that we have to live with some of these as there is no time and there are no sources that deals with medical professionals’ mental health issues. We somehow normalize it, which is bad but we have people who help us overcome and listen to what we have to deal with. Yes, I guess that is how we overcome mental health issues.
In India do you feel that the mental health of healthcare professionals is neglected, if so then why?
Yes, they are neglected. Mental health concerns are a social stigma in India. Among a high number of healthcare workers who need utter attention, mental health has been seriously neglected because of the rooted stigma, taboo, and myths. Unlike patients, we do have knowledge about various concerns but there is a massive treatment gap and people judge doctors who need healing.
At times it is difficult to even for a doctor to express something like this. Training and education are still missing in rural areas for psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric social workers. If this is the case for normal people, you can imagine that of a healthcare professional. We are not considered as someone whose mental health needs attention.
What would you recommend to other healthcare professionals who are struggling with mental health issues?
Stay in touch with your people. Take a break when required. Long working hours are okay but not till it ruins your mind and body. You are a human before begging a healthcare worker. Give time to people around you and more importantly give time to yourself. Take yourself on a trip, date, movie, or whatever makes you feel happy.
Also, there might be many professionals around you facing the same condition. Try to talk to them, listen to them. You might get solutions for yourself as well. There are trained psychologists you can consult with. That is the most safest and professional space where you can open up and expect the best help in return. Pay attention to yourself. That is the only way you can nourish your mental health.