Help for Doctors Who Forget that they Need It
Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, doctors and healthcare workers were already experiencing high levels of stress and burnout. Now, these critical personnel are even more exposed to mental health challenges as they battle every day to fight against this insidious disease.
Doctors sometimes believe that they are invincible. As healers and saviors to many, the notion of getting sick, becoming unavailable to their patients is simply not an option. But doctors are humans too, as susceptible as anyone to the many ailments that befall us. In fact, doctors are even more exposed since they work in an environment that poses a significant risk to their physical health.
An often-overlooked fact is our physicians’ wellness of mind – their mental state of health. The coronavirus outbreak has placed doctors on the frontline of this battle. Daily, they’re confronted with the risk of infection, courageously coming face-to-face with this highly contagious disease.
Watching people succumb to COVID-19, helpless to do anything, and knowing that they’re dying alone due to lockdown restrictions, is placing a heavy burden on them. Adding to this, the fear of exposing their loved ones to the infection and having to provide grieving families with counseling is causing high levels of fear, anxiety, and distress.
As healthcare workers, many doctors believe that health resources are not for them. Many do not want to share or discuss these stresses, preferring to rather focus on their jobs and ignoring the symptoms of burnout and depression. Doctors, often the councilors themselves, are simply not used to sharing these feelings of sadness with others.
But there is help for physicians facing these difficulties. Northwestern University’s Family Institute psychiatrist Smita Gautam, along with others, has launched a special initiative – the Physician Support Hotline – a confidential and free national support hotline. This special initiative is aimed specifically at assisting physicians in dealing with these mental health challenges. The hotline, staffed by almost 600 volunteers is available from 8 am to midnight to offer counseling for these doctors, giving them a conduit through which to address and deal with this trauma.
The hotline offers support to doctors specifically, helping them to process the daily stresses that they’re confronted with. The initiative sends a strong message: “If you’re a doctor and you need help, call us. We’re here to assist you.”
Another program helping not just doctors but healthcare providers across the spectrum is ChiHealerHealth. Illinois therapists Allison Levine and Mandy Jones have set up this special platform that works to connect therapists with healthcare workers, including physicians, nurses, residents, and fellows. With 160 volunteers, ChiHealerHealth is putting healthcare providers in touch with therapists in an effort to combat their mental health challenges.
The Federal Department of Health and Human Services also has a Disaster Stress Hotline, available 24/7 to anybody dealing with stress and trauma relating to the ongoing pandemic. This free service is available to anybody.
To all the doctors facing this unprecedented crisis, the message is loud and clear – you are not alone in this, there is help out there. With these resources, we urge you to protect yourselves against COVID-19 and the associated mental health challenges that come with fighting the pandemic.
For more information, or to access these resources: