Pandemic taking a significant toll on healthcare professionals’ mental health

ATLANTA — Men and women on the frontlines fighting the COVID-19 virus in hospitals across Georgia are quickly becoming overwhelmed by the rising number of hospitalizations from the virus.

Dr. Shelly Norris, an anesthesiologist at Emory University Hospital Midtown says many healthcare workers are reaching their breaking point.

“To see this much death,...it’s depressing, honestly,” she told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden. “It’s horrendous. So many people still believing it’s a hoax, yet we’re watching those same people die. It’s just frustrating and it’s sad.”

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More than a year into the pandemic, the crisis is taking a significant toll on their mental health.

“It takes a toll not only on our mental health, but our physical health because we are exposed to this virus every time... and it’s something that we could possibly be bringing home to our families,” Dr. Norris said.

The mother of three told Seiden that for the last 17 months, she and her colleagues have been on an emotional roller coaster.

“You really just feel helpless,” she said.

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According to a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted before the delta variant, roughly 60% of frontline healthcare workers said the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health in some way.

Earlier this month, a bill in memory of Dr. Lorna Breen, a New York City ER physician who tragically died by suicide after treating COVID-19 patients and contracting the virus herself, was passed in the U.S. Senate. It aims to reduce and prevent suicide and burnout among health care professionals.

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Dr. Ryan Breshears is the Chief Behavioral Health Officer for WellStar Health System and the Director of Psychology and Psychiatry for the WellStar Medical Group.

“They are looking for more support, more team members who can come and provide support day to day. Others want their leaders to understand the magnitude of the experiences that they are having. They want to make sure their voice is being heard,” Dr. Breshears said.

“All that we are trying to do is help save lives and that’s it,” Dr. Norris said.

Many of the largest hospitals in the metro Atlanta area have already begun offering resources.

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