Mental health resources for employees involved in the COVID-19 response

Employees from departments across King County have been involved in the COVID-19 response for many months now. While emergency response work is rewarding, the long hours, breadth of demands, and exposure to human suffering can adversely affect the most seasoned responder. As we transition our pandemic response into the autumn and prepare to add in both the seasonal flu and the mental health crisis that experts are warning is ahead, there is a likeliness this already difficult work will become more so.

Studies of emergency responders from 9/11 show that those involved in mental health support services, such as one-on-one counseling or support groups, have improved mental health outcomes. During Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month, Balanced You reminds employees involved in the COVID-19 response that we are here for you in providing these types of programs to support you. Please read below for resources to help you attend to your own emotional well-being as you lead King County through the pandemic.

If you find you cannot take the time to attend to your own well-being, please communicate this concern to your HR manager or supervisor. Your well-being is as important as the well-being of the community you serve.

Mental health resources

  • Self-care Toolkit for King County First Responders and Essential Personnel: This toolkit, which can be found here, is designed specifically for King County employees responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes tips and resources for supporting your physical and mental health.
  • Mindfulness Classes: King County Balanced You has partnered with Mindfulness Northwest to develop monthly mindfulness classes specifically for employees responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. During these live, interactive sessions, participants will review what reactivity and burnout are, the various aspects of mindfulness practice, and the ways mindfulness can help reduce stress and lead to greater resiliency. The next classes are:
    • September 30, 9 – 10 a.m.
    • October 28, 1 – 2 p.m.
    • November 25, 3 – 4 p.m.
    • December 23, 10 – 11 a.m.

Click here to register for a mindfulness workshop for emergency responders. The password for registration is ERkingcounty.

  • Debriefing Groups: Debriefing groups provide a safe space where employees currently involved in the COVID-19 response can check in, share experiences, and learn strategies for emotional well-being, stress reduction, and resiliency. These groups are offered in team-based formats and will soon also be offered as a drop-in option. Debriefing groups meet virtually and are led by trained professionals. Contact balancedyou@kingcounty.gov if you are interested in participating in or starting a team-based group.
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP): EAP is a program that offers employees one-on-one counseling for job-related topics. During the pandemic, EAP is available virtually. Visit www.kingcounty.gov/EAP for more information.
  • Making Life Easier (MLE): MLE is a program that offers free counseling to employees, their dependents, and anyone sharing their home address. During the pandemic, MLE is available virtually. Visit www.kingcounty.gov/MLE for more information.
  • Mental Health Resource Guide: For a more comprehensive list of King County employee and community mental health resources, review the Mental Health Resource Guide via this link.

Health Hero Employee Spotlight: Heather Steffensen, EAP Interim Manager

If you access the Employee Assistance Program’s one-on-one counseling, take advantage of debriefing groups, or listen in to HMAC briefing meetings, there’s a chance you will run into Heather. Heather Steffensen is a King County Employee Assistance Program Counselor and the Interim Manager for EAP. Her primary responsibility is providing counseling, consultation, and coaching to employees and managers on complicated workplace issues that affect employee well-being.

Heather and our other EAP counselors are available to support you while you support King County. Please reach out to EAP at HRDEAP@kingcounty.gov for more information on services.

Questions? Contact balancedyou@kingcounty.gov.

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