National Recovery Month: Helping the Helpers

News Release
For Immediate Release: 9/29/2021

Julie Naughton, Office of Communications, (402) 471-1695 (office); (402) 405-7202 (cell);

Lincoln – People in the helping professions take care of all of us – but who takes care of them?

Disasters and emergencies can impact physical health. But they can also have adverse effects on helpers such as first responders and frontline health workers, because emotional effects often go unseen. Effective coping has a lot to do with an individual's resilience.

Individual resilience is the ability to adapt or “bounce back" in the presence of difficult life events. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that promote personal wellbeing and mental health, such as getting an adequate amount of sleep, eating healthily, avoiding using excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol, and maintaining connections and supportive relationships with families and friends. Feelings of grief, sadness, and a range of other emotions are common. Resilient individuals, however, are able to work through the emotions and effects of stress and painful events and rebuild their lives.

“Helping others is both rewarding and challenging work," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “Sources of stress may include witnessing human suffering, for some helpers a risk of personal harm, intense workloads and varying schedules, life-and-death decisions, and separation from family. Stress prevention and management is critical for helpers to stay well. To take care of others, helpers must be feeling well and thinking clearly. Maintaining supportive relationships, getting enough sleep, exercising, staying in the moment, and enjoying a favorite relaxing activity can be a big part of that process."

As a response to the stress and trauma associated with their jobs, some helpers may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, which may include alcohol or other substances. But it's important to remember – both during National Recovery Month and throughout the year – that help is available and recovery is possible.

Wondering if a loved one, friend or person in the helping profession has a substance use disorder or mental health disorder?

Signs of substance use disorder include:

  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Pupils that are smaller or larger than usual
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Slurred speech
  • Impaired coordination or tremors
  • Deterioration of physical appearance or changes in grooming practices

​​Signs of mental health disorders include:

  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs" or feelings of euphoria
  • Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
  • Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
  • Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
  • Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains")
  • Thinking about suicide

Help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

  • Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or student health center on campus.
  • Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time. (888) 866-8660
  • Rural Response Hotline, 800-464-0258
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 para Español
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

There are many specialized resources available for those in the helping professions:

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