When the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year and a lockdown ensued, people across the world gathered in their balconies to applaud healthcare workers risking their lives to save everyone. Scores of people expressed their gratitude to them on social media and in other ways. While all this was great in terms of boosting the morale of these heroes, the stress and strain behind these long hours is something none of us is privy to; neither will the hero-worship alone protect them from their mental anguish. Even as they take decisions on who and how to save and attend to one patient after another, the psychological impact of all this is something they will take a long time to recover from.
As they cope with the enormity of the second wave this year, our doctors, nurses, radiographers, lab technicians, anaesthetists, and young interns are under more duress. They are prone to anxiety, insomnia, burnout, and numerous other mental health concerns even as cases keep pouring in amidst the fear of contracting the virus themselves or passing it on to their family members. In a study conducted by the Government Medical College and Rajindra Hospital, Patiala, over 62% and 28% doctors were under moderate and high stress, respectively. According to the national registry of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), 747 doctors have died of Covid-19.
There are many things they are fighting: the novelty of the virus, mounting death toll, dejection of not being able to save people, acute shortage of basic necessities at the hospital, spending the entire day stuffed in a PPE suit without a break, and other things. The fact that people put them on a pedestal or turn violent when they are helpless exacerbates the issues. A lot of time people expect them to surpass every problem turning a blind eye to the fact they are human beings too. For most parts, healthcare workers do not talk about what is ailing them. They worry about their careers and the fact that it is their responsibility to save lives. People hold doctors responsible for any eventuality without realizing that they are not healing angels. There is also a lack of trust between patients and doctors on some level. It is critically important here to understand that the bereavement of a loved one is a truly powerful emotion but one cannot allow it to transcend into rage and anger, especially against the treating doctor. We need to have some, if not unconditional faith, on our doctor.
The need of the hour is to acknowledge the problem at hand at the outset. It is important to enable emotional support for healthcare workers both at work and homes. This could either mean giving them access to mental health helplines or ensuring that their seniors hear them out when they speak about what may be bothering them. A break from the stifling confines of the PPE suit to eat, hydrate or just visit the restroom are added pluses. Public health measures to address the outbreak must also take into account the mental health of medical professionals with specialized interventions that address their concerns.
Doctors forget their hardships when they see their patients live and smile. Their commitment leads them to provide service even when they are indisposed. The medical community cannot have a peaceful and leisurely time in the face of any crisis like this pandemic or otherwise. Just like anyone else with mental health concerns, India’s healthcare fraternity needs a safe space to open up – one that makes it easy to voice concerns and does not just force them to cope with what they are facing all by themselves. They are humans and the stress, anxiety, and tears are natural – what is needed is to help them show it without having to bear the badge of superheroes.
News source- Economic Times