Physician Mental Health During the Global Pandemic
While contracting COVID-19 is a profoundly serious dilemma facing HCPs during this pandemic, it is not the only obstacle they face, as their deteriorating mental health can be just as problematic. As many on the front-lines of the outbreak have realized, the experience can be quite isolating. The stress from their jobs, coupled with the fact that many HCPs are being physically distant from their families, can trigger depression. The problem is best summarized by Dr. David Mueller, dean of the Mount Sinai medical school in New York, “we’re so focused on taking care of patients and providing quality care, that absent from our education is how we take care of ourselves”.
The numbers reported during the COVID-19 outbreak, seem bleak. According to reports from the Association of American Medical Colleges, about a third of medical students suffer from depression. It was also reported that medical students are also three times more likely to commit suicide, than their same aged peers. Researchers believe there are numerous reasons for this, HCPs are asked to work excruciatingly long hours, and are forced to care for dying patients, with the reality being for many of them, that no matter the treatment they receive, their symptoms are terminal.
Physician Cristiane Decat Bergerot, Ph.D., who has concentrations in health psychology, and psycho-oncology, was recently asked through her studies, how this pandemic has impacted physician’s mental health, to which she responded “Physicians are navigating a public health crisis, and it’s natural to feel a loss of control that increases their stress and their anxiety. Being on the frontline, treating patients with COVID-19, or even [being] in quarantine have significant effects on mental health. As a result of this pandemic, we can predict some symptoms of acute stress disorder, anxiety and depression, and we can also expect a long-lasting emotional burden. Preliminary research on COVID-19 in China showcases high rates of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress, which are much higher in nurses, women, and those on the frontline”.
In a report posted by ABC news, a survey was conducted on 1,200 health care workers located in China, with more than half claiming they believe they are suffering from either anxiety, or depression, and nearly a third of those surveyed also said they are experiencing insomnia. After reviewing this report health a disease experts are continuing to worry about the longevity of America’s mental health state, as COVID-19 numbers continue to increase and a second wave of coronavirus is predicted to arrive, once colder weather starts to sweep across the U.S. Healthcare workers are left wondering when the end will be insight, the reality is, even if the coronavirus were to be cured and eradicated today, the psychological effects the virus has left, are permanent. Many doctors and other medical professionals, especially new ones will forever be mentally and emotionally damaged, by the number of patients lost during COVID-19.