It should not have taken a pandemic for our society to recognize the heroism of health care professionals, including in addiction services
By Montse Rafel – Before we are even born, they are present at our sides. From the very moment we are born, they are there too. The first to see us, the first to take us in their hands. Much later, they will be there too, to accompany our last breath.
Throughout our lives, caregivers and all health professionals accompany us and watch over our well-being and our autonomy. When we need them, they always answer the call. They take care of everything; we take care of the rest. And the rest is simply living.
It should not have taken a pandemic for society to genuinely recognize you and value your commitment and heroism. A real hero is a person who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through feats of courage and strength, with one goal in mind: helping others. You are all heroes. No matter if you are cleaning the hospital’s rooms and hallways, or performing a life-saving operation. No matter if you are on the front lines of behind the scenes. You are heroes.
Heroes, not martyrs
It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to realize how important a role caregivers and all healthcare professionals play in taking good care of the precision mechanics of the human mind and body.
I would like to dedicate these lines to the healthcare workers who have taken, and continue to take, many risks to provide Covid-19 patients with the help they need. And I will never accept to hear those who say that they are only doing their duty. That a doctor or a nurse is there to treat the sick, just as a fireman is there to put out fires.
A firefighter will put his own life in danger when trying to save a person from a raging fire. Never that of their loved ones. They’ve also got large ladders, fire hoses and (hopefully) the best in firefighting gear and protective equipment. On the other hand, our healthcare workers have often to face a quandary as they try to balance their obligations as professionals with their duties as husbands, wives, parents and children. The risk to their own health is alarming enough, but the risk of infecting their families because of exposure on the job can be unacceptable for some! Not to mention the fact that they have lacked and continue to lack the necessary equipment to protect themselves.
Not enough masks or of poor quality, not enough screening tests for health personnel… Lack of preparation and lack of foresight have had terrible consequences: according to the International Council of Nurses, 90,000 health professionals have been contaminated. A report by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimated the contamination rate among Spanish medical staff at 20% of the cases in that country.
Health care workers may be heroes in this pandemic, but they do not want to be martyrs.
Mental Health and Addictions
The Covid-19 pandemic caused a major health crisis and put half of the world’s population in quarantine amid a particularly difficult climate. Many people are experiencing anxiety and stress, due to uncertainty, and due to the consequences of the crisis: social isolation, loss of employment, separations, illness of a loved one, etc. Now that most countries are reopening, many people are turning to mental health professionals who now have a key role to play.
Among the latter, I would also like to stress the exemplary role of addiction professionals during the crisis. As we can imagine, stay-at-home orders did little to encourage people with substance use disorders to decrease their use of alcohol and other drugs. In many cases, an increase in drug use has been reported due to added anxiety and stress. The Covid-19 crisis represents an enormous challenge for the people with addiction or recovering from a substance use disorder.
Addiction services have carried on providing crucial support to those in need, and in too many instances they have done so without having the necessary protective equipment. Millions of people worldwide have substance use disorders or another type of addiction, and health professionals in addiction services play an essential role in supporting these vulnerable populations.
Yes, addiction is a disease, and again yes, the men and women working in addiction services are also health care professionals. Every day, they open a door to hope, for the people themselves, but also for their families, who are often devastated by their loved one’s addiction.
We must have addiction services that are effective, well-organized and diverse enough to meet all needs. This is a critical public health issue. That is why I invite you to join our current campaign to raise awareness of this issue among decision-makers and the general public.
Addiction services are also essential health services.