Essential workers face mental and physical health obstacles


Odessa, TEXAS (Big 2/Fox 24) – Grocery store workers, teachers, people in the oil industry, and pharmacy employees are some​ of the essential workers who are trying to keep the community afloat. In this week’s Centers Solutions: COVID Edition, Kristi Edwards and Melanie Saiz explain why frontline workers are going through a tough time with the pandemic. 

“Our frontline and essential workers right now, are experiencing stress levels that are unprecedented. They’re working longer shifts so there’s a lot of overtime. Then a lot of times they have to come home and balance the work at home. A lot of us have been homeschooling our children, so that adds stress. Not everyone has the luxury to stay home. So making those tough decision adds a lot of stress and anxiety,” said Centers Marketing & Development Director Melanie Saiz.  

Kristi Edwards says she has worked with people who are dealing with burnout, and the impact can be overwhelming on top of their normal responsibilities.

“First responders are used to being first responders. So they know that they are the first to offer help, to rush into, to render aid… like doctors, therapists, we know that we are expected to be there to help people throughout this-but this is a different level. So this is a different type of stress.  It’s a different type of burnout, it’s not just the stress of the job, and the long hours, and the low pay, and putting yourself in a dangerous situation. It is now we’re taking these things home to the people we love. So you know there’s that stress, and there’s you know, how many more situations can I go into that I’m going to remain safe?,” said Centers Executive Director Kristi Edwards.   

 The pressure can cause mental and physical health problems, especially since the pandemic has gone on for months.

“Unrelenting stress, or compound stress, eventually can just wear anybody down. So you know you’re going to have your depression symptoms rise, your anxiety levels rise, people that have been in really traumatic, stressful situations prior could be re-triggered, or triggered by a traumatic situation. Which then leads to all the psychosomatic kind of issues like high blood pressure it can lead to heart disease, upset stomach, digestive problems. You know and then just the stress, it almost renders – kind of frozen. We call that stress fatigue,” said Edwards.  

One way to alleviate the burden on essential workers is to make sure they’re getting the help they need on the job. Centers can help companies develop stronger employee assistance programs, and Saiz has some tips for mangers. 

“Having open and regular conversations about how the employees are doing, just checking-in. Normalizing help-seeking behavior, making those requests okay, it’s never been more okay I think, than now to talk about your mental health, right? Because we’re all struggling with something that we don’t know or understand. Creating peer support systems is important at the workplace and just expanding access to free and confidential support and resources,” said Saiz.

 Centers is expanding their free counseling sessions to even more essential workers with an unlimited amount of sessions right now. Here are some of the employees who may qualify:

  • Medical and healthcare workers
  • Nursing home workers
  • Food service employees
  • Teachers and school employees
  • Information technology systems 
  • Farmers and ranchers
  • Transportation workers
  • Energy and oil workers
  • Water and wastewater employees
  • Law enforcement personnel, EMTs, and firefighters
  • Grocery store workers
  • Pharmacy employees
  • Janitorial and maintenance workers
  • Truck drivers
  • Journalists 

 To see if you qualify for free counseling, or to listen to their podcast, Centers has more information on their website.

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