Public health workers have been on the front lines of it all, from the pandemic, mass shootings, racial injustice and intense natural disasters.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the toll that is taking on their mental health.
In 2021, more than half reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD and thoughts of suicide. That improved slightly this year, but 75% still feel like their employer hasn't done anything to increase mental health support, and about half are considering leaving their job in the next five years.
“And so this mental health crisis is only going to get worse as people are more and more burnt out and stressed and not able to deal with the workload in front of them, which is trying to keep our communities healthy,” said Lisa Carlson, past president of the American Public Health Association.
Workers said having more time off and staff so they're not frequently working 60 hours a week would help. The CDC recommends that employers facilitate access to mental health resources and services. Experts said more consistent funding for public health agencies is needed to prepare them for a crisis.
Carlson said support from the community is also crucial.
“Now we don't have a vaccine for our mental health like we do for our physical health,” Carlson said. “And so we've got as a community to come together and figure out how we can support each other and support our public health workers or other health care workers on the front lines so that they can help us all stay healthy.”
The CDC estimates that we need about 80,000 more public health workers across the country right now.