N.J. nurses union offers free mental health courses

A nurse walks down a hallway with her arms in the air, clasping the back of her head

A nurse walks down a hallway during a night shift at a field hospital set up to handle a surge of COVID-19 patients, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Cranston, R.I. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Health care workers in New Jersey can now register for free mental health classes to help them cope with job-related stress.

A state-wide nursing union – the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) – and the American Federation of Teachers are offering a set of online courses to help members better cope with their own mental health issues, particularly brought on by working through the pandemic.

“We need ways to deal with the stress that we are experiencing with our exhaustion, despair, and feelings of guilt,” said Ana Delgado, a registered nurse. “Personally, I know what’s keeping me sane: even up until now, it has been my job. We just keep on going, despite all the stress.”

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The courses will include how to recognize mental health issues in yourself, cope with traumatic stress and PTSD, and support peers. They are funded by a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health, and are available free to the general public as well as to nurses.

HPAE president Debbie White said she’s seen many members leave the profession in the last two years because of burnout.

“They’ve worked chronically understaffed, often running from crisis to crisis for prolonged periods of time,” she said. “They felt betrayed at times by the agencies that were supposed to protect them.”

Since the pandemic began two years ago, the Mental Health Association of New Jersey has seen a doubling of calls to its mental care hotline to about 125,000.

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