The pandemic has greatly affected frontline medical personnel who had to face an unprecedented situation caused by COVID-19. In this sense, after more than a year in which the focus of attention in health centers around the world is on the new coronavirus, the strongest collateral damage to the mental health of doctors is already a reality or even is defined as the fourth wave.
In June 2020, Mental health experts from Latin America and Spain warned of the possibility of a wave of disorders such as anxiety, depression and stress and even suicides as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and urge specialists and citizens to be vigilant in order to contain it in time.
In this context, two studies carried out by the Hospital del Mar in Barcelona revealed that 45.7% of the participants are at high risk for some type of mental disorder, that is, they need a professional evaluation to confirm the presence of a mental disorder. At the same time, 1 in 7, 14.5%, have a disabling mental disorder, with clear negative repercussions on their professional and social life. By pathologies, 28.1% present depression, 22.5% anxiety disorder, almost 1 in 4, panic, 22.2% post-traumatic stress and a little more than 6%, substance abuse.
“The results of the study do not surprise us, but they do concern us. They are very consistent with our clinical experience. We cared for many health workers with acute stress, exhaustion and anxiety. Especially those who have previously experienced mental health problems”Explained Dr. Víctor Pérez, director of the Institute of Neuropsychiatry and Addictions of the Hospital del Mar (INAD), coordinator of the Mental Health Research Group of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar and researcher of the CIBER of Mental Health (CIBERSAM).
Another study revealed that clearly there are mental health effects on the workforce and a psychological impact of working on the front line with COVID-19 patients. The results showed that 21% of those surveyed had moderate to severe anxiety symptoms, while 17% experienced symptoms of depression in the same range.
Mental health problems prevailed in younger nurses and in those with less career experience, according to the investigation which was led by Nicola Roberts, Senior Lecturer in Nursing and Community Health at the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University.
On the other hand, data published in The Lancet Psychiatry show the results of a multicenter survey of doctors who operated in China during the coronavirus pandemic. From them, 50.7% developed depression, 44.7% anxiety, 36.1% insomnia and 73.4% symptoms related to stress.
Among the greatest concerns of healthcare personnel are their own health and fear of contagion from themselves and from co-workers. On the other hand, the excessive expectations that the population places on health personnel, increase stress and the feeling of overflow.
For the psychiatrist Marcelo Cetkovich (MN 65636), medical director and of the Department of Psychiatry of Ineco told Infobae what “The effects of the pandemic will probably be observed in two times: an immediate time during the pandemic, which is what is being observed now, and an effect called ‘fourth wave’, which are late or cumulative effects”.
Caring for those who care
Health personnel are on the front line, battling the enemy “invisible” to the rest of the population. In this sense, The psychiatrist Daniel Mosca, coordinator of the SAME human factors team, usually receives from his peers concerns related to the coronavirus health emergency and among them the greatest fear: infect your loved ones due to your profession.
“The health professional is more exposed both to the possibility of contagion as well as to experience situations that lead to stress. And it is that, for doctors, nurses, orderlies, among others, the virus has the face of all of them and therein lies the enormous difference between how the general population and health professionals experience this extraordinary situation, ”Mosca emphasized.
With a dizzying context for both the general population and those who have to go out to work, the psychiatrist explained that you have to be extremely careful with eating and sleeping, not drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco excessively, doing physical activity as well as doing breathing exercises and meditation.