COVID-19 Stress: Healthcare Workers Seeking Mental Health Help


  • Researchers looked examined anonymized data from 34,000 doctors in an Ontario database.
  • They discovered that in the first year of the epidemic, 27 percent more physicians sought care for burnout and drug abuse than in 2019.
  • Psychiatrists had the greatest rate of yearly visits, with 3,442 visits per 1,000 doctors, while surgeons had the lowest rate, with just 371 visits per 1,000 physicians, according to the findings.

The current COVID-19 epidemic has resulted in a sharp drop in mental health across many groups, according to a recent study, and physicians are also approaching their limitations throughout the pandemic, according to new research. During the first year of the pandemic, Canadian researchers evaluated anonymized data from an Ontario database containing 34,000 doctors who had 50,000 mental health consultations.

They discovered that in the first year of the pandemic, 27% more Ontario physicians sought care for burnout and drug abuse than in 2019.

Some professions are more impacted than others

In addition, some specialities had much more mental health visits than others, according to a research published this month in JAMA Network Open. Psychiatrists had the greatest rate of yearly visits, with around 3,442 visits per 1,000 doctors, while surgeons had the lowest rate, with just 371 visits per 1,000.

“Not all doctors are created equal, and various specializations confront distinct demands and realities. In a statement, co-senior research author Dr. Manish Sood noted, “The disparities we identified across specialities may be explained by specialty-specific attitudes about obtaining mental health treatment.” The data also revealed that mental health visits were unaffected by demographic groups or workplace locations, with no changes in gender, age, or whether they worked in an urban or rural setting.

Healthcare has faced new hurdles as a result of the pandemic.

Doctors, according to Anthony LoGalbo, Ph.D., associate professor at the Florida Tech School of Psychology, are dealing with many of the same issues as the general public, such as limited contact with friends and family, fears about the virus, and information overload.

“Extra demands for healthcare staff include often increased vigilance and hygienic regulations they must follow to reduce infection risk at work”. Increased stress, according to LoGalbo, may create a range of symptoms, including difficulty sleeping, increased weariness, high heart rate or breathing rate, feeling overwhelmed or nervous more readily, and having difficulties focusing.

“Among recent years, compassion fatigue and burnout in doctors has been an increasing area of research,” said Arianna Galligher, a licensed independent social worker supervisor and associate director of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s STAR Trauma Recovery Center. One of the most prevalent reasons why physicians and other healthcare professionals are driven to the sector is a desire to serve others, according to Galligher.

Positive results aren’t assured even when “everyone does everything right,” she said, and healthcare providers face the responsibility of being there with patients and their families on their darkest days. “The stress that comes with this vicarious exposure to tragedy may cause emotional weariness, anxiety, melancholy, feelings of cynicism, greater errors, increased drug use, interpersonal troubles, and suicidal thoughts.”

Some of the rises might be explained by virtual care choices.

Researchers believe that the proliferation of ‘virtual care’ alternatives during the epidemic may have contributed to the increased mental health visits they saw. This might be because this sort of therapy is associated with fewer stigmas than conventional, in-person treatment “Doctors, in particular, are reluctant to seek mental health therapy, citing worries about views and the potential for future career harm, especially when it comes to damaging their professional licenses,” says the report.

Although the shift to “more comprehensive” telehealth mental health delivery is anticipated to boost service availability, Gustafson cautioned that since online therapy is “so new,” there are no credible figures on its efficacy, “particularly in contrast to in-person therapies.”

Supporting healthcare workers requires a “culture of compassion.”

The most effective solutions for supporting healthcare personnel, according to Galligher, employ “a multidimensional approach at the system level.” She believes that mental health initiatives should include both preventive and responsive measures for addressing issues when they occur. “Supporting employees requires promoting a culture of compassion and adopting trauma-informed care practices,” Galligher added.

Pet therapy, gratitude programs, mindfulness-based stress reduction, peer support, and stigma-free counseling are all vital components in providing full-spectrum care across “a continuum of need,” according to her. “At the proper moment, deploying the right resources may assist workers to maintain a good mental state,” Galligher added.

In Conclusion

According to Canadian experts, physicians needed substantially more mental health treatment in the first year of the epidemic than in the preceding year. This might be due to a variety of causes, including trauma exposure, compassion fatigue, and more availability to virtual care, according to experts. They also recommend that mental health programs for healthcare workers include both preventative and reactive measures for dealing with problems when they develop.

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