Trauma faced by healthcare workers 'could lead to more suicides'

  • 5 months   ago

The recent suicide of an ER doctor in the US could just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the mental health impact COVID-19 is having on frontline workers.

Experts say the pandemic is unlike any major disaster the world has seen, and the constant pressure placed on emergency workers is taking its toll.

Manhattan ER Doctor Lorna M. Breen took her own life on Sunday after spending weeks on the frontline, constantly exposed to the trauma, stress and death brought on by COVID-19.

Her family said witnessing the vast number of patients dying from the virus before they were even unloaded from ambulances had taken its toll on her.

"There's so much uncertainty, and there's no endpoint — that uncertainty makes it more traumatic, especially for healthcare workers," Amanda Fialk, chief of clinical services at mental health treatment centre -The Dorm told New York Post.

"The sheer number of cases they're seeing on a day-to-day basis, the lack of [personal protective equipment], other equipment shortages - they are making life-and-death decisions for their patients, themselves and even their own family and loved ones."




Ms Fialk said the circumstances faced by these frontline workers is a recipe for creating PTSD and mental health problems.

According to a study into Chinese hospital staff conducted by the peer-viewed medical journal JAMA Psychiatry – it is apparent the pandemic is also taking its toll on them.

Of the 1257 respondents, half of them reported symptoms of depression with 45 per cent experiencing anxiety and 71 per cent experiencing general distress.

The study also found female healthcare workers were among those more prone to experience problems.

"Nurses, women, front-line healthcare workers and those working in Wuhan, China, reported more severe degrees of all measurements of mental-health symptoms than other healthcare workers," the study said.

It suggested that special interventions need to be implemented to promote mental well-being in healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19, especially in women, nurses and frontline workers requiring particular attention, such as those in junior roles.

John Mondello is another frontline worker who fatally shot himself two days before Dr Breen took her life.

Mr Mondello a recent graduate into the profession had previously spoken to a friend about how exhausting it was going straight from the academy into the coronavirus battle.

Debra Kaysen, a psychology professor from Stanford University, said she believes mental health issues among frontline workers will only get worse.

"Do I think there will be a higher level of PTSD a year from now? I do,'' she told New York Post.

The experts say the true extent of mental damage from something like this doesn't come straight away, but years after – especially since everyone is in survival mode right now.
Ms Fialk said health care workers on the front lines need to "take five minute breaks in their day, enough time in the day to eat."
"Hospitals need to do more training for self-care techniques," she said.

Source: 9News