Baptist Health System expands program to help staff struggling with mental health issues

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Dr. Tim Cranfill pointed out that the biggest barrier facing healthcare workers is the stigma surrounding mental health.

SAN ANTONIO – Baptist Health System remains at the forefront of addressing staff mental health issues during the pandemic. This comes at a time when recent legislation passed by Congress has underscored the need for more services aimed at helping workers in the medical community.

Dr. Lorna Breen has worked more than 12 hours a day in New York’s healthcare industry, treating confirmed COVID patients while dealing with supply shortages. She died by suicide on April 26, 2020 after her family said Breen’s mental state had declined and she feared she would ruin her career if she sought help.

Breen was a sister, a daughter, a friend and a doctor. Dr. Lorna Breen’s Health Care Protection Act now awaits the President’s signature.

The bill would result in government-backed grants for training programs designed to reduce and prevent suicide among healthcare workers.

“His death was a tragedy and it highlighted the stressors that were evident everywhere during our heights of COVID,” said Dr. Tim Cranfill, director of pastoral care at Baptist Medical Center.

Cranfill recalls some of the worst days of the pandemic when supplies were low as hospital beds reached capacity at Northeast Baptist Hospital.

“They felt very helpless, just like all the nurses and all of us, very helpless,” Cranfill said.

These feelings of helplessness and anxiety can feel overwhelming, especially for the men and women working on the frontlines.

The holistic approach to pastoral care has now evolved into Code Safety Net, an expanding evidence-based program to assess and comfort staff who are not feeling 100%.

“We have a good idea when they’re in the right place and when they’re not,” Cranfill said. “This is also an evidence-based triage assessment form that we use that will help us assess individuals, if they are okay once initial contact is made and completed, if they might need further a follow up or if they might need a referral.”

Cranfill’s hope for the future after the pandemic begins with removing what he said is the biggest barrier for healthcare workers: mental health stigma.

“I think as we’re able to have more evidence of how this affects everyone, then there will be evidence in someone’s personal life that I’m not alone,” Cranfill said.

By reducing stigma, Cranfill thinks people struggling with mental health issues will be more willing to reach out and say they need help.

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