Features, Health and Safety, New York

Care After COVID-19

May 4, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

Given the current situation, and with May being Mental Health Awareness Month, now is the time to create a strong plan before our country opens up and everyone returns to work. Tensions are higher now more than ever before. We are weaving through the Covid-19 Pandemic to the best of our ability. However, there is a strong need for attention to our safety, as well as our mental and emotional wellbeing.

Aside from our financial losses which alone are enough to affect one’s ability to reach their best potential, we are also faced with the losses of friends, loved ones, and family. At a time when unity is not only crucial but paramount, the call for solidarity is undeniable. The need for mental health awareness has always been important amongst the locals and internationals, but times are changing. As we update our performance to meet new standards, we must also update our ability to improve our education.

The Covid-19 virus has exposed the demand for wellness in the workplace and outlines the inevitable necessity for Mental Health First Aid training. Growing clearer on our goals to return and strengthen our workforce, there needs to be an industry-wide and functional mechanism that will stress and explain the essential skills to assist in crisis situations. 

Prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic, our nation had a yearly potential loss that climbed above the centi-billion-dollar range. This loss is a result of mental illness. Losses like this cannot be denied or ignored. These statistics are based on absenteeism, workmanship, and performance levels. These are statistics before Covid-19. Consider us now. Add the prior information to the struggles we face today. Our challenges range from financial and personal, as well as both mental and emotional. The focus on mental health can no longer go unmentioned. Depression and anxiety are conditions that threaten our best possible ability. Abuse disorders, anxiety or panic attacks, and other emotional challenges cannot and should not be ignored or dismissed. The moment to act and support one another is now.

As a Certified Mental First Aid instructor and wellness advocate, I have participated as an overdose responder at emergency rooms. I have volunteered with suicide prevention programs and earned certifications in emotional and mental support backgrounds. Through my experience, I have seen what happens when personal challenges go unaddressed.

First Aid training is an essential part of teamwork. Aside from the simple cuts and scrapes, we are taught CPR as a lifesaving tool. Our training is aimed to help in times of crisis. This does not certify someone to walk into a surgery room and perform open-heart surgery. This is not the case at all. More accurately, CPR is taught as a procedure to assist in crisis situations until the appropriate help arrives. Mental Health First Aid is trained with the same intention. Likewise, this does not certify one as a mental health professional by any means. Instead, this empowers us to alleviate the possible encounter of an emotional crisis until the appropriate help is found. Our plans need to create a synergistic approach to provide our locals with a strong sense of unit cohesion to stay safe and remain Union Strong!

We are living in co-occurring times with co-occurring conditions. Aside from the normal stressors of everyday life, we are now faced with the additional and unnatural challenges of an unrelenting pandemic. Meanwhile, as we await the new normal, people will encounter cuts and bruises or broken bones on the jobsite. In the rare instances when this occurs, standard First Aid training teaches our co-workers how to respond. However, in the wake of the tragic losses to the Covid-19 virus, Mental Health First Aid training empowers us in the ability to support our fellow coworkers in the mournful times of tragic loss. Ever proving that the time to act is now.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of IUOE Local 94 as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, and Peer and Wellness Advocate. Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com.

May 4, 2020

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