LEXINGTON, Ky. — Nurses have been on the front lines, fighting COVID-19 for more than a year now. Some researchers have found healthcare workers struggling with their mental health during the pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Concerns are being raised about mental health struggles for frontline healthcare workers

  • Being at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health in the medical field

  • Researchers found 37% reported thoughts of suicide in September 2020

  • UK Healthcare leaders are sharing resources and spreading awareness of mental health for nurses and healthcare workers

“It has been recorded that what we will be seeing with PTSD because of the COVID impact, we'll see more cases of PTSD than all the soldiers coming home from World War Two. In Vietnam, and Afghanistan. So, This pandemic has really hit our nurses hard,” said Dr. Jamie Heath, Dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Kentucky.

After almost 40 years in the healthcare field, Heath said COVID-19 is one of the worst health crises she has ever seen. 

“We have been educated, prepared and trained for being on the front lines for whatever hits us up but this is just different because up until recently, it was just non stop, we did not see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Heath said.

In a study done earlier this year, depression, anxiety, and stress were the three most common symptoms nurses in the United States were suffering from. Increased hours, having to wear personal protective equipment during shifts, and being around infected patients were all contributing to the symptoms. 

“It's hard for nurses to turn it off, and to go home and turn off what they have been through with those long, hard days is really hard. And that is the big worry because as we know this is just not sustainable. It's not healthy for our nurses to stay in this kind of a state,” Heath said. 

According to Mental Health America, researchers found more people having frequent thoughts of suicide and self harm than ever before. Out of 1.5 million Americans, 37% reported having thoughts of suicide more than half or nearly every day in September of 2020. 

“It's been hard because nurses, as a whole, we move forward, we take care of our patients and our families and, and we hold those emotions and those burdens and frustrations, to ourselves, but it certainly has taken a toll because nurses are human too,” Heath said.

Heath has been working to support her University of Kentucky nursing students and UK Healthcare workers by providing resources for anyone in need — reminding nurses that it's OK to ask for help.

“Nurses tend to be like superheroes, the super-mom, the super-dad, the super-nurse, and it's very hard for nurses to say, 'I need some help because our focus is always about helping others first,'” Heath said.

Here are some of the resources Dr. Jamie Heath provided for nurses in her program and recommends anyone struggling during this time to reach out.

  • American Academy of Nursing’s Nurse Suicide Prevention/Resilience site
  • National Suicide Prevention phone number for anyone who is considering suicide or self-harm: 1-800-273-TALK
  • Safe Call Now — crisis referral service for public safety employees, emergency services personnel and their families. 
  • Disaster Distress Helpline — Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Run by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA). A 24/7, 365-day-a-year, national hotline providing crisis counseling for those in emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. 
  • Crisis Text Line — 24/7 crisis support for frontline health workers from trained crisis responders. USA – Text “HOME” to 741741