UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How do community mental health workers maintain wellness while responding to the fentanyl overdose crisis? McDaniel, Matthew Moses


Community mental health workers (CMHWs) are a subset of mental health workers who integrate themselves into the communities that they serve. As a result of their work setting and community focus, they often function as under-recognized front-line first responders during public health and addictions crises. The current and ongoing fentanyl overdose crisis has increased the strain put on these workers. Despite the increased challenges involved, some CMHWs report that they are successfully maintaining their personal wellness. This study aimed to understand what is helping and what is hindering these workers in maintaining their wellness. Sixteen CMHWs working with clients that have experienced fentanyl related overdose participated in an open-ended semi-structured interview based on the enhanced critical incident technique (ECIT). The ECIT is a well-established qualitative research method, and it was used to obtain a description of what helped, hindered, or would have helped participants' wellness. The results obtained are in the form of five categories and thirteen subcategories of helping, hindering, and wish list helping factors. The contributions of this study included enhancing empirical literature with regards to the support of workers doing challenging helping work, providing practical suggestions to practitioners in supporting similar workers, providing suggestions for supportive organizational policy, and making suggestions for further worker sustainability focused research. In addition, this study makes clear the urgent need for systemic advocacy regarding these similar workers and their clients. Finally, this research assists workers by providing examples of the shared struggles, supports, and connections that may be used in fostering career sustainability.

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