COVID Prompts Downward Spiral in Healthcare Workers’ Mental Health
Since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, COVID-19 hurt workers’ mental health and now experts are finding solutions to aid the healthcare workers’ mental health from falling.
With more than 400,000 COVID-related deaths since the first case was recorded on Jan. 21, 2020, healthcare workers across the United States are struggling to cope with the stress, exhaustion, and emotional toll of treating patients during a pandemic.
According to Mental Health America, in a survey of 1038 healthcare workers, 92.76% reported that they have been stressed for the past 3 months. Physical exhaustion is one of the many reasons why healthcare workers are stressed, but it isn’t the leading cause. Out of 919 healthcare workers, 82.13% reported that they felt emotionally exhausted, according to Mental Health America.
As time passes, health workers feel like they are failing and feeling hopeless during this time and because of this some workers even have left their jobs due to the amount of stress they are dealing with, according to The New York Times.
An anonymous ICU nurse in El Paso Texas commented that seeing patients who are terminally ill from the virus facetime their loved ones was a terrible feeling, ABC reported.
“There’s nothing you can offer,” said the anonymous nurse, as quoted by ABC News. “There’s nothing you can say that is going to make it better”.
Derek Villareal, an intensive care nurse in Manhattan Veterans Affairs, commented that during the 12-hour shifts so many things happen and one of them is the constant screams of loved ones trying to get a hold of their sick family member, according to NPR.
One of the many other stresses that healthcare workers worry about is their health, according to Stat. This fear could have possibly been developed by the number of frontline healthcare workers that have died in China, Italy, and even in the United States.
Not only are healthcare workers stressing about infecting themselves, but also worrying about potentially affecting their own families, according to The Guardian. Healthcare workers are isolating themselves from their families because they fear that they could infect them.
Another stressor is that although vaccines have been rolling out, at least 400 healthcare workers have died of Covid. At least ⅛ of workers died of Covid after the vaccines became available according to The Guardian.
While it is unknown what could happen after Covid, experts are looking into the 9/11 terrorist attacks for clues to see how first aid responders reacted years later to help healthcare workers get the help they need, according to The Guardian.
Because of the traumatic events that healthcare workers are facing, many of the hospitals that have cared for Covid patients have started mental health programs for their staff, according to the University of Michigan Medical School. With these programs in place, it can help healthcare workers to recover from disasters.
Reggie Ferreira, a disaster response expert, commented that healthcare workers should focus on their self-care and talk to loved ones during these difficult times so they won’t slip into depression, according to Healthleaders.
“Healthcare organizations can provide counseling and have support groups available — they can amplify the social support system at work,” said Reggie Ferreira, as quoted by Healthleaders. “I’m sure there are many therapists at health systems who are willing to step up to the plate and help healthcare workers”.
In March 2020, Mona Masood, D.O, an outpatient psychiatrist working in Philadelphia, created the Physician Support Line, a free, mental health outlet that is confidential to help doctors during the pandemic, according to ABC News.
A Kentucky-based physician Dr. Genevieve Jacobs called the health line during a time of stress and that one call gave her the support she needed, according to ABC News.
“I called and a physician picked up right away,” said Dr. Genevieve Jacobs, quoted by ABC News. “So I was, first of all, surprised that it works”.
The free mental health line offers more than 600 volunteer psychiatrists who offer their time to help doctors and medical students that are in need of support, according to the Physician Support Line. The number for the support line is 1-(888) 409–0141 and the hours for the support line are from 8:00 am to 1:00 am ET.