One-of-a-kind mental health initiative is aiding hospital workers confronted by COVID-19

Amy Frieman, MD, MBA, Hackensack Meridian chief wellness officer, is the creator of “Even Heroes Need to Recharge.”

Hackensack Meridian Health’s “Even Heroes Need to Recharge” employee resilience campaign was launched this year in support of the mental health of its team members and their families as they cope with the anxiety, grief, fear, and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus.

The program is unique among New Jersey hospitals and within the Northeast for its unrivaled attention to combatting the daunting psychological effects on our healthcare workers of providing COVID-19 care.

According to information provided by the hospital chain, Hackensack Meridian Health has treated more COVID-19 patients that any other health system in New Jersey and was at the epicenter of the outbreak when the pandemic reached our shores in early 2020.

Amy Frieman, MD, MBA, Hackensack Meridian chief wellness officer, is the creator of “Even Heroes Need to Recharge.” The program is working to serve and protect the health system’s more than 35,000 workers. Of that number, more than 5,000 have accessed services in the “Heroes Need to Recharge’’ program, according to the statement.

“It is important for each of us to catch our breath and to assess how we are doing physically, emotionally and spiritually during COVID-19, and that is what our Hackensack Meridian effort is all about. Our goal is to see that everyone has the tools at their disposal to get through this overwhelming and uncertain time with their mental, physical and emotional health fully intact. Our health system’s place at the forefront of battling the pandemic has taught us many lessons that we’re compelled to share with others in this ongoing fight,” Frieman said in the statement.

Frieman offers several general principles for self-care during COVID-19, including:

  • Self-care isn’t selfish: Taking care of ourselves is critical to our ability to care for others.
  • Empower yourself: When so much is out of our control, focus on what you can control. Prioritize a healthy diet and daily physical activity, grow your connection with family and community, and build a daily resilience practice.
  • We’re all in this together: Kindness toward others is crucial today more than ever, and it all starts with being kind to ourselves.

Hackensack Meridian’s message to its team members is that there is no shame or stigma in asking for help when you’re struggling, according to the statement. Hackensack Meridian has created a multifaceted approach to well-being. A key part of that plan is a team member support and navigation hotline, offering 24/7 access to professional and confidential support and connects employees with additional behavioral health resources.

This strategy also includes: the “We Care” program, a confidential peer support service for team members managing the emotional aftershocks of providing COVID-19 care; “Coping With COVID Talks” – group sessions led by our behavioral health team; information about mindfulness sessions, and information about Hackensack Meridian’s Employee Assistance Program, which is also accessible to family members of employees.

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