Violence against public health workers is rising in New Jersey and the United States. These workers may be employed as laboratory scientists, community health workers, contact tracers, data analysts and epidemiologists. Individuals facing violence on the job report feeling depressed and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation. A three-prong approach may help fight this negative trend.
While violence against public health employees rises during public emergencies, many organizations are calling for an increase in the amount of training that these workers receive in dealing with the public. In particular, it is suggested that leaders receive training on how to be politically active and deal with the media.
Many public health workers report feeling they need more support from people who understand their demanding roles and the emotional stress it puts on them. One possible solution is to train public health workers as leaders of peer-support groups that other workers can access without fear of retribution as needed. Allowing workers to discuss their mental health needs helps everyone and can help avoid personal injuries from occurring.
Increased communication about violence
One of the reasons that workers commonly cite for their increased stress is that they feel alone in their emotional struggles. Employers need to find ways to educate workers on violence in the workplace. Then they must create systems encouraging workers to see mental health professionals as required. The best employers understand that they can play a vital role in removing the stigma surrounding mental health.
Public health workers often feel stressed or suicidal because of threats of workplace violence, but supervisors and employers can help them learn to cope better.