Help needed for people dealing with unprecedented burden of toxic stress

Help needed for people dealing with unprecedented burden of toxic stress
Ber Mulcahy Director of Nursing Bon Secours Cork with Dr Harry Barry Author and Fr Richard Hendrick, Capuchin Franciscan Order, Director Youth Ministry Ards Friary at the Bon Secours Hospital ,Cork and the UCC Nursing & Midwifery School, Conference on Building Resilience Through Mindfulness. Photography by Gerard McCarthy 

A CORK audience has heard that human beings are not designed to bear the pressure of modern life. A leading expert in the area of anxiety and depression told a major conference that people are dealing with an unprecedented burden of toxic stress.

And he said that employers have to provide for this by introducing programmes in the workplace because employees are not designed to take the kind of workloads and pressure demanded of them today.

Speaking at the fourth annual Bon Secours Hospital Cork Mindfulness conference ‘Building Resilience through Mindfulness’ in UCC at the weekend, GP and well-known author Dr Harry Barry said the pressures of modern life have created an epidemic of toxic stress which employers must actively address.

“The biggest casualty in all organisations is, unfortunately, the human being, the employee,” Dr Barry said.

“In modern businesses, everything is moving so fast, it is so changeable that there’s so much pressure.

“Unfortunately, human beings are not designed to take the kind of workloads and pressure that modern society demands of them.

“As everything is going faster and faster with more technology and more change we need to train our staff to have the skills to be able to cope with that and look after themselves.”

Dr Barry said people are the most precious resource and added that the importance of developing a self-care programme ‘can’t be overstated’.

“All of us who work in business, professional or health arenas are at risk of burnout otherwise known as toxic stress,” he said.

“This occurs when our mental and physical reserves are overrun by the pressures of life.

“The consequences of toxic stress as we will see, can be profound for both ourselves and those we love.”

Bon Secours director of nursing Ber Mulcahy says that there is a huge need for stress reduction in the workplace, particularly in health care where employees often express and suffer the symptoms of compassion fatigue and burnout.

“Through my research, I have discovered that happy staff make happy patients,” she said.

“You can’t give to somebody else what you don’t give to yourself; it’s a very basic principle. We have embarked on training staff and mindfulness techniques and building their resilience and making them much happier people. We certainly want to spread the message because we see days like today’s conference as a community initiative. One small change in a big population will have a great common good effect for the wider community.”

Nurse practice development coordinator Dr Mary Forde added that it is essential that workplaces, especially those in health care, look after their staff wellbeing.

“Self-compassion starts with self, and it is really important to teach the staff to care for themselves and how to be kind to themselves and to one another. Patients will ultimately feel it at the bedside.”

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