This article talks about suicide. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free, confidential support at 1-800-273-8255, or text HOPELINE to 741741.
WISCONSIN— It’s now roughly six months since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll across the US, leaving a strain on all those involved in treating patients and finding a cure.
We’ve all seen the sights of COVID-19 floors at hospitals, the protective gear, and the loss of life from this pandemic. But what about the mental health of those serving on the frontlines?
Dr. Michael Brin is the Medical Director of the ER at Columbia St. Mary Ozaukee. He, along with many others, has been tackling this pandemic head-on.
“It was a mystery and it was scary and the preparations and so many unanswered questions that kept on popping up around every turn. We would close our eyes and we thought we had something to hold onto… things changed,” ER Medical Director at Columbia St. Mary Ozaukee, Dr. Michael Brin says.
All of this piled together was a stirring pot, creating stress and mental strain on millions of doctors across the U.S.
“Honestly I didn’t do well. I didn’t. I’m glad the sun is out and I am here. I am fortunate, I know a lot of people weren’t as fortunate but I did not deal with it well,” Brin says.
Without the comfort of his wife and kids for safety reasons, he says he began immersing himself in work thinking it was his next best option.
“We try to immerse ourselves into work which quite honestly was the wrong thing to do. You need to get away you need to break away you need to find something to get your mind off of the nightmare we were going through… and that was it, it was mental torment,” Brin says.
Over in New York, the late Dr. Lorna Breen, the head of a Manhattan hospital, died by suicide after treating patients non stop and even contracting the virus herself.
“These healthcare heroes earned this title hero but before that they were human. We need to recognize that and make it ok for them not just in the culture of medicine and when they get home to take a break,” brother-in-law of the late Dr. Lorna Breen, Corey Feist says.
Feist explains the grueling work that came with the pandemic.
“She worked nine twelve-hour shifts in a row until she could no longer stand herself,” Feist says.
Meanwhile, for many others, they were finding themselves burnt out from nonstop medical care.
“We know that prior to the pandemic 40 percent of physicians reported burnout. We are releasing study today that shows the number is now up to 58 percent,” Dr. Gary Price, President of The Physicians Foundation says.
Now, hospitals are working to put the mental health of their workers to the forefront.
“We have made emotional well being as a daily dialogue. We talk about it as leaders of the organization, we talk about it throughout our daily huddles,” Tina Lechnir, LCSW, Regional Director, Behavioral Health, Ascension Wisconsin says.
She says they are working to prevent more lives lost. Dr. Brin says he’s honestly surprised and thankful he hasn’t seen more medical workers take their lives during this time.
“I am shocked that we haven’t seen more, I am happily shocked,” Brin says.
For more information on mental health and resources available, click here.