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COVID-19: Mental health pros come to the aid of frontline comrades


A Growing Movement

Doris Grinspun, PhD, MSN, the CEO of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), said the province’s nurses are under intense pressure at work, then fear infecting family members once they come home. Some are even staying at hotels to ensure they don’t infect others, as reported by CBC News.

However, she added, most recognize the important role that psychotherapy can play, especially since many frontline healthcare workers find it difficult to speak with their families about the issues they face at work, for fear of adding stress to their family life as well.

“None of us are superhuman and immune to stress. When healthcare workers are facing workplace challenges never before seen in their lifetimes, they need opportunities to decompress to maintain their own health and well-being. This will help them pace themselves for the marathon — not sprint — to continue doing the important work of helping others,” said Azzam.

Given the attention it has garnered in such a short time, Azzam is hopeful that the free therapy movement will spread.

In Canada, mental health professionals in other provinces have already reached out to Dougherty, lending credence to the notion of a pan-Canadian network of therapists offering free services to healthcare workers during the outbreak.

In the US, other local initiatives are already underway.

“The one that I’m personally aware of is at my home institution at the University of California, San Francisco,” Azzam said. “We have a Care for the Caregiver program that is being greatly expanded at this time. As part of that initiative, the institution’s psychiatry department has solicited licensed mental health care providers to volunteer their time to provide those additional services.”

Azzam has also worked with colleagues developing a series of mental health tools that Osmosis has made available free of charge.

These include a central site with educational material about COVID-19, a video about supporting educators’ mental health during high-stress periods; a video about managing students’ mental health during public health emergencies; a summary of recommended resources for psychological health in distressing times; and a YouTube Live event he held regarding tips for maximizing psychological health during stressful times.

This article first appeared on


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