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Nonprofit stresses importance of prioritizing mental health for caregivers

Posted at 9:38 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-18 22:38:12-05

Caregivers go the extra mile to selflessly provide physical and emotional support to those who need it most. Today we honor them on Nation Caregivers' Day, but the mental toll of caring for others can cause long-term harm if not addressed.

Tina Capito is a busy bee, with the Garden of Hope foster care facilities expanding.

"Will be an emergency shelter will be a long-term facility and we’re this year opening a childcare placement agency," Capito said.

The team helps care for 300 children in the system, but Capito said the staff has to take steps to practice self-care as well.

Capito said, "These kids have been through trauma. They have been through abuse and neglect. They have been beaten and starved and all those things. If they are not at their best, then they can’t help nurture that child."

Dr. Holly Oxhandler, the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty at Baylor University said, "When it comes to prioritizing mental health, for caregivers, you know, we've seen over the last several years that rates of anxiety and depression and burnout have risen for caregivers."

Oxhandler said emotional support for caregivers is vital especially because caregivers can take on the trauma of those they care for.

"There's also compassion, fatigue, and vicarious trauma and secondary trauma, and a lot of these caregivers who are working with these kiddos you may experience some of this," said Oxhandler.

Capito has her own share of stress as Chief Financial officer trying to cover costs the state does not. The organization now trying to raise $150,000 for its annual fundraiser.

"$150,000 in a nonprofit our size is really not a lot of money it doesn’t even cover our monthly expenses," Capito said. "We are funded by the state. The state pays a fee per day that a child is with us but that fee pays for basic needs such as housing food it does cover transportation, you know some of just your basic everyday needs.

What it doesn’t cover is, think about how expensive clothes are, clothes are very expensive. It doesn’t cover all our mental wellness, I mean bringing in another social worker, and additional staff that takes money we do a great job of taking care of their basic needs, but we need to go the extra mile and take care of their mental wellness as well."

With this in mind, mental health remains at the forefront for Garden of Hope staff, so they can continue to pour their hearts and soul into the children they serve.

"We’re good about giving each other a break and really knowing how to say you need a break," said Capito.

Transforming Life Center does partner with the center to provide counseling for the kids and staff. Being mindful and self-aware is key to maintaining one's own mental health when caring for others.

Oxhandler said, "Prioritizing mental health needs are going to look different for each caregiver, depending on who they are, their background, their experiences, their support, their resources, their environment, and their mental health needs. So, you know, I just want to start by noting that those unique layers are important."

Dr. Oxhandler recommends caregivers reach out to their primary care provider or other mental health resources if they do begin to feel overwhelmed.