Didi Hirsch experts recently developed a trauma-informed support group for frontline health workers and first responders to address the well-being of heroes whose mental health has largely been neglected by healthcare and by the pandemic.
The Orange County Healthcare Agency (OCHA) has contracted Didi Hirsch since 2010 to provide suicide prevention and support services. In 2021, our crisis counselors helped over 20,000 Orange County residents considering suicide or worried about a loved one, and provided suicide prevention trainings and outreach to 5,492 health professionals, educators, and others. Culturally sensitive groups—available in English, Spanish, Korean, Arabic, and Farsi—provide hope, support, and healing to survivors of suicide attempts or loss.
With concern rising about the youth mental health crisis, Didi Hirsch’s partnership with OCHA expanded during the pandemic to provide follow-up care to youth released from local emergency rooms after suicide attempts. We work closely with Providence St. Joseph Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) to ensure youth receive support in their journey towards recovery. CHOC reports that they treat as much as 450 youth per month with suicidal thoughts who could benefit from this county-wide program.
At baseline, research has shown high suicide rates in healthcare workers compared to other professionals due to access to and knowledge about poisons, combined with high-stress work and high burnout rates which increase substance use and suicide. More than ½ of physicians know a physician who considered, attempted, or died by suicide. Healthcare stress and trauma can also have significant consequences for patients, such as impaired quality of care and deadly medical errors. In 2020, a study by Mental Health America found 93% of healthcare workers experiencing stress, 86% anxiety, 76% exhaustion and burnout, and 75% overwhelm—experts agree the Covid-19 pandemic is a setup for health worker suicide.
Our 10-week Health Heroes support group curriculum, developed with funding from the Saint John’s Health Center Foundation, is modeled after our internationally recognized suicide support groups. Topics addressed include connection; stress, burnout, and coping; understanding emotional triggers; behavioral skills; crisis coping; reducing emotional pain; giving and receiving support; fostering hope; preventing relapse; and resources for ongoing support. Group sessions are confidential and led by culturally competent and highly trained clinicians.
Highly effective practices are embedded throughout the program to ensure the delivery of positive outcomes. These include:
- Mindfulness – The practice of paying attention to the present moment;
- Safety Planning – A simple and brief intervention whereby a clinician and patient work collaboratively to identify signs that can trigger a suicidal crisis and protective factors that the patient can use before or during the crisis to help them cope;
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – A type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions;
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – A modified type of CBT designed to teach people how to live in the moment, develop healthy ways to cope with stress, regulate their emotions, and improve their relationships with others; and
- Relapse Prevention Concepts – Identifying high-risk situations for relapse and developing appropriate solutions.
Didi Hirsch will also provide individual and family teletherapy to frontline health workers and first responders struggling with depression, anxiety, severe stress and/or suicidal thoughts, attempts, or loss. We can help these healthcare heroes cope, enhance resilience and develop strategies to keep themselves safe. The team at Didi Hirsch Crisis Counseling is comprised of licensed clinicians who specialize in complex bereavement and suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. They’re also trained in CT-SP (Cognitive Therapy for Suicidal Patients), an evidence-based treatment that reduces suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Funding from the inspiring Celebration of Heroes will be used to promote and deliver virtual support groups and counseling to healthcare workers across Orange County, ensuring those charged with taking care of others have support themselves to remain resilient and effective. Our goal is to deliver at least one support group per quarter with 8-12 individuals per group. If additional groups are needed, we have the capacity and welcome heroes from all healthcare professions and facilities across the region.