Local healthcare worker opens up about stress, mental health during pandemic

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Healthcare providers are helping those in need during these challenging times, but in some cases, they are in need themselves.

There’s ongoing concern about the toll the coronavirus crisis is having on the mental well-being of those working on the frontline.

Samantha Ross works at an assisted living facility for adults with disabilities in Jacksonville. Ross candidly opened up to Action News Jax about her struggles with stress during the pandemic. “It’s been really hard because we are trying to cope as staff and we’re also trying to help our folks with disabilities cope,” Ross said.

Adding to her stress, Ross said since mid-March she’s been living apart from her partner, who’s a nurse, out of fear for their health and those they care for.

“I really can’t be around him since if I’m around him and he’s been exposed I could bring it into my workplace and expose all of these people who are really vulnerable,” Ross said.

Ross said even though some people are getting back to a “normal” routine with Florida now in phase 2 of re-opening, she said the stress, anxiety and fear of the pandemic is ongoing.

“Once I heard things are beginning to reopen, my heart sunk because I knew it was going to make things one million times harder for us here,” Ross said.

Her growing frustrations led her to write a letter to Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry June 18.

In the letter, she shared what it’s like working as healthcare provider during the pandemic and urged him to stop the re-opening of Jacksonville.

Ross wrote, “I am exhausted, burned out, and angry, especially now that there is no end in sight. Since I am living at work. I do not get a break. I am always at work, never able to return to my family to decompress from the stress of providing healthcare.”

Ross said she’s learning to cope with her own anxiety and is taking it day-by-day.

She said she wants other healthcare workers to know they are not alone, even though it may feel like that at a times.

“We do have each other at the end of the day,” Ross said. “I would love to connect with other healthcare workers because it’s so valuable right now.”

For more information about mental health care support and resources, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or text “NAMI” to 741741 for 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also has advice on how to cope with mental health during the pandemic. For more information, click here.