Medical Workers Struggle with COVID-19 Trauma, Some Have Committed Suicide
Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, many health workers were already prone to trauma-related disorders. The virus has made them even more vulnerable to mental health issues, including depression and suicide.
Doctors, nurses, first responders, and other front liners have been on the receiving end of praises from the government and the public. However, amidst the celebration, the heroes are battling a pandemic they cannot control-trauma and anxiety.
Each day, the medical workers risk developing post-traumatic stress disorder due to the overwhelming number of cases they juggle. Their emotional struggles could prevent them from performing their jobs with the intensity and focus it demands.
A report published by the World Health Organization details the impact the coronavirus crisis has on their mental health. The report cited studies conducted on medical workers in other countries, including China and Italy, where researchers found rising rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia among doctors and nurses who treated COVID-19 patients.
Mental health experts in Michigan say the coronavirus situation could increase suicide rates by 32 percent if left unchecked. Reports of suicide involving front liners have ballooned since the start of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, a 32-year-old south Florida nurse named William Coddington was found in a hotel near a hospital in West Palm Beach. According to county health and law enforcement officials, Coddington may have succumbed to an overdose. Text messages found on his phone detailed his increasing fear and trauma from battling the virus during the final weeks of his life.
In April, a 49-year-old emergency room doctor who previously recovered from the virus committed suicide after she continued to treat coronavirus patients. Lorna Breen worked in the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian hospital system where her father claims, she handled an onslaught of cases and was later treated for exhaustion. She went to stay with her sister in Charlottesville, where she died to self-inflicted injuries.
The ebbing new cases and deaths may still contribute to a worsening psychological pain among workers, mental health experts say. As the intensity of the pandemic begins to fade, the adrenaline will disappear as well, leaving only the emotions of dealing with the trauma and the stress following the overwhelming number of patients the medical workers are responsible for.
To address the problem, many trauma therapists began offering free consultations to medical workers and first responders in the nation. New York City collaborated with the Defense Department to train more than 1,000 counselors in an effort to help address the post-traumatic stress disorder. In New Jersey, Rutgers Health and RWJ Barnabas Health adopted a "Check You, Check Two" program where the staff is encouraged to attend to their needs while contacting two colleagues every day.
Getting help: If you are someone or know someone who is living in the United States and is suffering from trauma-related disorders, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with a trained and licensed operator at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website. The International Association for Suicide Prevention can also provide information for crisis centers around the globe.
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