Throughout this pandemic, I’ve written a lot about how people need to be taking care of themselves—through managing their diet, staying active, and taking care of their mental health.
But I haven’t written much about the toll this crisis has taken on the healthcare professionals that have been working the frontlines. And there are a couple of reasons for that.
For starters… it’s simply our job to take care of our patients. And for many of us, it’s not the first epidemic we’ve navigated. But what many people don’t realize is how this particular crisis reaches way beyond our professional lives… to our home lives, our personal relationships, and even our physical health.
So when I came across a new study showing that half of all doctors, nurses, and emergency responders who have cared for COVID-19 patients could be at risk for mental health problems, I decided it was finally time to talk about it.
The high cost of daily duress
This research from the University of Utah discovered that a staggering number of health professionals are struggling with one or more mental health issues—including traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and alcohol abuse—since the pandemic hit.
And, honestly, I can’t say I’m surprised.
For frontline workers, this pandemic has been like working under combat conditions for months at a time—especially during these long sieges of positive cases and overflowing ICUs.
They’re operating under extreme duress, day after day, trying to keep themselves and their families safe—all amidst growing frustration over political decisions that have spurred this pandemic to rage out of control.
This kind of stress has consequences.
The researchers surveyed nearly 600 healthcare workers—including emergency responders and hospital staff—between April and May of last year. And 56 percent screened positive for at least one mental health disorder.
Prevalence ranged from 15 percent to 30 percent for each disorder. But the top three included:
- Problematic alcohol use
And that, folks, paints a pretty grim picture.
A problem for all of us
This study also found that healthcare workers who were either exposed to the virus, or who were at higher risk of infection due to being immunocompromised, suffered the most dramatic increases in traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.
Plus, some 36 percent reported risky alcohol usage. (Under typical circumstances, this percentage hovers between 21 percent and 23 percent—so we’re talking about a major spike here.)
Supervisors and workers in charge of direct patient care were at the highest risk. But let’s talk facts—this is a problem that’s affecting all of us, to some degree.
In fact, I recently came across another recent study, which showed that the amount of alcohol consumed right now is a whopping 81 percent higher than it was a year ago.
And given how so many people turn to booze and food for comfort, this is cause for concern.
In other words: Despite some pretty major progress, we still have a long way to go—maybe even another year or more—before this is all over. And until then, it’s clear that our healthcare workers remain at particularly high risk.
I want everyone to think long and hard about this before they refuse vaccination—and then refuse to wear a mask or observe physical distancing. (Or if they attend any social gathering while feeling sick—including going into any place of work, dining out at a restaurant, or taking public transportation.)
Because your applause can only go so far. If you really want to thank the “healthcare heroes” in your life, you can start by acting like you care—and making responsible choices accordingly.
P.S. Continue boosting your immune system in the age of coronavirus by following the steps outlined in my Complete Guide to Year-Round Immunity. Click here to learn more!
“More Than Half of COVID-19 Health Care Workers at Risk for Mental Health Problems.” University of Utah Health, 01/12/2021. (healthcare.utah.edu/publicaffairs/news/2021/01/covid-mental-health.php)