The Effect the Coronavirus Pandemic has on a Physician's Mental Health
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 frontlines 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 definitely 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”.
With over 43 million COVID-19 infections worldwide, and with many disease and health experts, such as Doctor Anthony Fauci, predicting those numbers will continue to increase at staggering rates, during this second surge of the virus, many HCPs 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.
Fortunately for many medical professionals across the country, many companies such as the Child and Family Psychological Services, were created to help protect their state of mind. In Massachusetts, where the CFPS is located, medical professionals are taught how to cope with the stress of their every day lives. This is called the “Resiliency Program” and more and more companies, are starting to see the benefits the program has to offer. These mental health clinicians understand that there is a “stigma” behind asking for mental help, but encourage you to speak up, instead of retreating emotionally. CFPS has claimed that 95% of the services they offer, can be provided through telemedicine, meaning that medical professionals can evaluate you from the safe, convenient location of your house.