In the growing world of mental health, there has been a growing amount of mental health professionals. According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau Statistics, in 2017, there were 577,000 mental health professionals practicing in the United States.

As the world is beginning to put a larger focus on mental health, more and more people are turning to mental health for their career paths. 

That being said, with this increasing number of mental health professionals, we now have to think about who’s taking care of them? 

There has been a lot happening in the world recently: politically, socially, and economically. Although there certainly are groups of people who have been hit harder than others in the last year, it is safe to say that everyone has been affected in one way or another…even the mental health professionals. A large part of working in the mental health system is having self-awareness. This level of self-awareness expected also means that those working in the mental health field have to recognize when they might need some extra help themselves. 

It’s difficult to acknowledge what may be going on in your own life when you spend your time trying to help others sort through and cope with their own difficulties, trauma, and life experiences. However, it is important to understand that in order to help other people, you have to help yourself first. 

Chronic stress can have severe consequences on an individual’s well-being, no matter how informed they are on mental health and wellness. In addition, it can also lead to burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion, which can occur from a continued period of excess stress. Emotional exhaustion is something that probably resonates with many mental health professionals. Because of the nature of their careers, prolonged periods of stress are unfortunately not abnormal. 

This year has also brought on a number of new factors that have contributed to this type of professional stress: a transition to telehealth, pandemic-related fears and changes, an increase in cases and people seeking out help, and a decrease in personal time.

Knowing how detrimental burnout and emotional exhaustion can be, mental health professionals should be wary of the signs pointing to potential burnout. 

Signs of Stress and Potential Burnout:

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability 
  • Feeling tired, difficulty sleeping 
  • Physical symptoms (headaches, nausea) 
  • Persistent or recurring illness 
  • Apathy 
  • Lower work performance 

Mental health professionals are there to help, but it is just as important for them to also get the help that they need. Like they probably tell their clients and the populations that they serve, it is extremely important to find a support system, especially during this overwhelming period of time. 

In addition, mental health professionals should always take the time that they need. Whether that be taking time off just to work on their own mental health, or making space for the people closest to them. At the end of the day, they deserve the level of support that they are handing out. 

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