ASTHO and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing Address Public Health Workers

October 18, 2021|5:16 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Portrait of Chuck Ingoglia, MSWMichael FraserDear Public Health Colleagues,

As the executive leaders of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing (National Council), we wanted to take a moment to collectively acknowledge the incredible efforts that you and your teams have taken to address the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

We appreciate all you are doing to keep your communities safe, despite the pushback, politics, and polarization that you and your agency staff may be experiencing. We value the many contributions that you and your teams have made throughout the pandemic to help promote an equitable and effective response.

In short, we felt it was important to pause and say thank you for all you have done over the last 19 months to help keep our nation healthy and safe. And we know that simply saying “thank you” is not nearly enough.

That’s why ASTHO and the National Council are actively working to develop resources for state and territorial health agencies to help create a culture of wellbeing and resilience that builds upon the best available evidence for designing thriving workplaces using a trauma-informed and equity framework. We look forward to identifying opportunities to collaborate with you and your staff to affirm the positive and significant impact you are having as we face new challenges in the COVID-19 response.

The urgent need to support the mental health and wellbeing of the public health workforce has never been clearer. We recently welcomed more than 7,000 individuals to the latest segment of our Leadership Check-Up Series: Developing Your Resiliency as a Public Health Professional. CDC’s study on the mental health of the public health workforce was a wakeup call to both of us. More than half (53%) of state, tribal, local, and territorial public health professionals reported two or more significant mental health symptoms in the past two weeks leading up to the survey, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded additional supports for health care workers. Unfortunately, that support did not extend to public health professionals. Just like other frontline workers, it is more important than ever that we support the public health workforce that is critical to the wellbeing of Americans everywhere.

We cannot leave poor mental health and substance use among public health professionals unchecked. There needs to be ongoing monitoring of public health workers’ mental health as well as more robust and accessible systems for training, resiliency, recovery support, and wider access to resources.

Together, the National Council and ASTHO are dedicated to taking the steps necessary to acknowledge, address, alleviate the significant strains that so many public health professionals are feeling. We are also committed to celebrating our community of public health leaders, and their successes and achievements during this pandemic and beyond.

You and your teams have made incredible sacrifices. We believe it is time to address the stresses that accompany those sacrifices and invest in supporting the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of our courageous public health professionals.

We will share additional information about upcoming resiliency opportunities and resources. For now, please accept all our thanks for keeping us healthy and well now and in the future.

Most sincerely,

Michael R. Fraser, PhD, MS
ASTHO Chief Executive Officer

Chuck Ingoglia, MSW
National Council for Mental Wellbeing Chief Executive Officer