According to a report from FOX23, the COVID-19 pandemic is reaching new all-time records in new cases, deaths, and hospitalizations in November. Not only is the stress on the families and friends of COVID-19 patients, but it is also being felt by the medical professionals treating those patients.
According to the Physicians Foundation, doctors have the highest suicide rate of any other profession, averaging about 400 suicides each year.
New York City emergency room doctor Lorna Breen, 49, committed suicide April 25 after being overwhelmed by the influx of COVID-19 patients, contracting the illness herself, then recovering, and then having to work long shifts to try to save lives. Breen’s family said she never showed any signs of anxiety or depression. By then, it was too late.
Her family attempted to get her help, but they said Breen was worried her condition might cost her her career.
Many doctors don’t attempt to get help because of the questions asked by state licensing boards during the annual renewal process. Lyle Kelsey, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, says the board is now emailing physicians to let inform them that they can confidentially get free mental health help, and they’re changing these questions about mental health on annual license renewals.
The Physicians Foundation says recent surveys showed as many as 40 percent of physicians were struggling with burnout. The most recent survey shows that number jumped to 58 percent.
The Foundation’s president says doctors are struggling with exhaustion and there’s no reason to believe that will improve as many physicians don’t expect the pandemic to be under control until the middle of 2021.
Corey Feist and his wife founded the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation to bring light to the silence around physicians’ mental health struggles. If you wish to donate, click HERE.
The Physicians Foundation also created the Vital Signs Campaign to help doctors see the warning signs could prevent physician suicide. The campaign uses the acronym HEART–Health, Emotions, Attitude, Relationships, and Temperament–to address each of these aspects of life affected by the disease.
Anyone in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255 for free, 24/7 support.