Front-line worker in Calgary aims to relieve ‘toxic stress’ amid COVID-19 pandemic

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COVID-19: Front-line worker aims to relieve ‘toxic stress’ amid pandemic
WATCH ABOVE: Stress in on the rise among people trying to help others in crisis get through the COVID-19 pandemic. As Gil Tucker reports, a Calgary man is now taking steps to support his fellow workers on the front lines. – Mar 22, 2021

Stress in on the rise among people trying to help others in crisis get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working in a hospital, for instance, is often a stressful situation — now, even more so.

“Emotionally, I am just wiped at the end of the day, after a day of caring for patients during this pandemic,” ICU nurse Mark Banks said.

COVID-19 is also making things tougher for people working with the homeless.

“It’s built-up tension and stress and stuff that we can’t really release like we used to be able to,” the Calgary Drop-In Centre’s Colin Richardson said.

Richardson is a shelter supervisor at the centre. After seeing problems on the rise among staff, he created “Beat the Burn” pins, to encourage front-line workers to support each other.

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Featuring a drawing of a brain to symbolize mental health, Richardson said “Beat the Burn” refers to “taking a proactive approach against burnout and toxic stress.”

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The Alex Community Health Centre is among the Calgary facilities whose employees are taking part in the effort.

“Wearing this pin means that we’re safe to talk to when things are really hard,” said Jen Eyford, the Alex’s associate director of mental health and addictions.

“It’s an invitation to all of us to just be really, really honest and vulnerable and find ways together to be more resilient. We all need support.”

Richardson said the pins are a way for front-line staff to know that they’re not alone.

“I thought I was the only one waking up at two in the morning,” Banks said. “All of us are experiencing the same fatigue.”

Richardson said he expects that by the end of March he’ll have distributed more than 5,000 “Beat the Burn” pins to front-line workers across Canada.

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“To first responders, social workers, grocery store employees, bus drivers, teachers,” Richardson said. “Anyone who is serving others during this time.”

The pins can be ordered at, and while they’re provided free of charge to any front-line workers, visitors to the website are invited to make donations to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We can’t care for others and we can’t do all the front-line things that we need to to get through this COVID-19 pandemic without first caring for ourselves,” Banks said.

“We truly are in it together and we’re all on the same team and just trying to help the world heal.”

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