Mainstream Living

Tip of the Month

Regardless of the members you serve, chances are you have encountered a member who needs support around with their mental health.  As staff members, it is sometimes easy to separate ourselves from the populations with which we work. However, everyone has mental health needs, and it is important for each of us to take steps to maintain our own mental health.

People in caregiving roles, like staff at Mainstream Living, can often suffer from what is called “compassion fatigue”.  This can be a major source of burnout for people working in the field, and it is often difficult to identify.  Most people choose this line of work because they are selfless, and want to help others. But with an intense focus on the needs of other people, we often neglect our own needs.  We may sacrifice our own personal well-being for the well-being of the members we serve.  This can be the result of working long hours, but more often comes from expending all of our energy on the people we serve with nothing left for ourselves at the end of the day.  People who experience compassion fatigue can often become apathetic or depressed, and this can lead to a whole host of issues including substance abuse.

For this and other reasons, it is important that you as a caregiver identify and use techniques for  maintaining your own mental health.  This is not just important to you, but also for the members that we serve.  They, above all other people at the agency, are likely the ones who want most for you to feel content, stable, and grounded in your life.

Taking care of mental health needs is different for everyone, and there is no one size fits all practice for maintaining mental health.  Fortunately there are many online resources available suggesting methods for addressing and maintaining mental health needs.  But frankly, you and your coworkers are probably the best resources you have.  A good place to start is to look at all of the things you do to help members with their own mental health needs, and then ask if you are doing those things for yourself.  If not, how can you implement those things into your life regularly.  This is a good way to both recognize that your needs are important, and to be proactive about these needs.

When you are aware of your own mental health needs and take steps to address them, there are added benefits for the members as well.  You are likely a role model for those we serve, and if they see you taking care of yourself, they may be more apt to take care of themselves.  Furthermore, if you are open and honest about struggles you may have with mental health, it goes a long way in combating the stigma associated with it.  Imaging having severe depression, and seeing another person with depression successfully holding a full-time job in which they have a positive impact on the lives of others.  By accepting and taking care of your own mental health needs, you are doing a host of good for both yourself and those around you. 


Visit this link for more information on compassion fatigue:
http://www.compassionfatigue.org/    
 

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