COVID-19 | August 30th, 2021

The Waning Mental Health of Health Care Providers

By: Cortney Toombs
The Waning Mental Health of Health Care Providers

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the world that we once knew — drastically changing our mental and physical health. Healthcare providers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, meeting the demands of an unprecedented crisis. Ultimately, healthcare providers have seen an increasing rise in burnout and suicide rates amongst their industry. 

 “COVID has affected me in a weird way. I am busier because of the needs of people and I am working harder because I am busy, not taking time for self-care. I have become tenser than before in my life,”  said licensed therapist Damon A. Avinger. Oftentimes, healthcare providers are revered as saviors rather than humans, leaving them to grapple with their mental wellness in silence.

A 2021 Medscape study done amongst 12,000 physicians from all different specialties showed that 42% of physicians reported burnout. According to the report, the top three causes of burnout in this report were too many tasks, spending too many hours at work, and insufficient reimbursement/compensation. Twenty percent of physicians reported depression, and of the 20%, two-thirds of them reported having colloquial depression. Thirteen percent have reported thoughts of suicide. Many physicians reportedly avoid seeking help because they believe that their symptoms are not severe enough, they’re too busy, or they feel like they can manage by themselves.  

“There is even more concern about physician burnout, mental health needs, and suicide,” said Dr. Danielle Johnson, MD. Johnson, a psychiatrist based in Ohio, also feels like healthcare providers have been faced with an unnerving opposition due to varying stances on pandemic mitigation. “There’s a group of people who recognize the hard work of healthcare workers during the pandemic and another group who criticizes them for educating about evidence-based information regarding masking and vaccines. That is disheartening.”

Healthcare workers are not only treating patients, but they also have to face the grave reality of losing patients to COVID and massive grief. “I remember I would take the subway home, I’d walk in my door, I’d see my couch and I would just start bawling because I didn’t know how to process it,” said Rykeil Levine, a health care worker. 

Dr. Yuval Neria, Ph.D., asserted that the pandemic is even causing healthcare workers to show glaring signs of PTSD. Neria says, “We will see PTSD, we will see high levels of anxiety that are not really diminished over time.” 

While the delta variant of the virus surges, healthcare providers are facing the threat of burnout once again. According to the CDC, the delta variant is highly contagious and almost two times more contagious than any other form of the virus. As of late, the CDC reports that the delta variant counts for almost 93% of new COVID cases in the US. 

“This next wave has me concerned only because I have to mentally prepare for life going back to a possible lock-down. That is an anxiety-provoking situation of not being able to move around again,” Avinger said.” I’m preparing by focusing on setting my priorities and boundaries. I have a bad habit of doing too much and not practicing self-care.”