When the pandemic hit in early 2020, its toll on healthcare workers was almost immediate. So was the public appreciation, with the daily banging of pots and pans in cities worldwide and ads from brands like Google, Dove, Adidas that honored these workers’ sacrifices amidst a global emergency. In the last 18 months, however, this emergency has become the daily norm, creating a mental health crisis among healthcare workers. And with each new variant and surge, that trauma gets worse. It’s even been called a parallel pandemic.
Over the course of the pandemic, the United Kingdom has seen about 7 million cases of COVID, resulting in about 133,000 deaths. Many of those deaths occurred in packed hospitals under the care of frontline workers. Now, 40% of those workers are suffering from PTSD as a result of that experience, according to British charity Frontline19. This is happening around the world: In a recent CDC survey, 53% of public healthcare workers in the U.S. reported mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, or suicidal ideation.
To help raise awareness for what these workers are dealing with, and provide some relief, Frontline19 created a free phone service called Hopeline19, which encourages people to leave voice messages of support for when these critical workers are feeling most vulnerable. Users simply call the phone number 0808 19 665 19, and press 1 to leave a message, or 2 to listen.
Created by ad agency adam&eveDDB, a new PSA depicts the all-encompassing grief, panic, and despair that can result from more than a year of daily pandemic intensity, and promotes the new hotline as a salve. According to the agency, every scenario in the film is based on a true story they’d heard from people working in the NHS, and almost every member of the main cast works within the NHS in some capacity.
The nonprofit Frontline19 was founded in March 2020 by psychotherapist Claire Goodwin-Fee, who started by offering her own counseling services; it has since expanded to 3,000 volunteers. The nonprofit matches NHS and frontline workers with a counsellor for free, confidential sessions. Goodwin-Fee says that there’s a looming mental health crisis among those who have dealt with the very worst of the pandemic, and for whom it is far from over. “They are struggling with almost incomprehensible, battle-like experiences without adequate support,” Goodwin-Fee told Fast Company. “We wanted to create a platform for the voices of these amazing human beings, who have worked through the most horrific experiences whilst struggling with the loss of colleagues, being sick and being let down by the government. These workers have names, families and have given so much. They need to know that we are here to offer support and to create sustainable long-term change for them.”