Healthcare professionals —be it a physician or a support worker in a hospital — are at risk for mental-health problems that could be devastating if left untreated during the Covid-19 pandemic, yet another study has asserted and called for immediate support for the sector.
The healthcare staff has a higher risk than the general public of experiencing health problems such as depression, said the researchers in a study published in the Frontiers in Psychology.
Experts found that healthcare workers in the United States are struggling with a suite of mental-health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that on average, healthcare professionals reported enough symptoms of depression to be diagnosed with clinical depression.
“Our goal was to better understand the impact that COVID-19 was having on the mental well-being of healthcare workers,” says Ann Pearman, corresponding author of the study and a senior research scientist in the School of Psychology at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Shevaun Neupert, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-author of the paper, said, “These findings are alarming and we need additional work to better capture the scope of this problem. What’s more, we need to be thinking about how we can help our healthcare workers.”
Researchers had conducted an online survey of 90 people who identified as healthcare workers including physicians, nurses and medical technicians, some held roles such as hospital administrators.
Healthcare workers reported higher levels of stress, anxiety and tiredness, as well as lower feelings of control over their lives.
The researchers also found that the healthcare workers were less likely to engage in “proactive coping,” meaning they were doing less to prepare themselves for future stresses or adverse events.
Talking about the mental health status of the healthcare workers in India, Dr Rajinder K Dhamija, Head of Department of Neurology, Lady Hardinge Hospital, Delhi, said the frontline workers involved directly in handling the Covid-19 patients are at greater risk than others.
He attributed the adverse psychological outcomes to excessive workload/work hours, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPEs) and feeling inadequately supported.
That’s why, he pointed out that the Union Health Ministry has prepared guidelines recommending that all Covid-19 treatment centres must be provided with a designated mental health support network for personnel. “Ideally both psychiatric and counselling services need to be made available,” as per the guidelines prepared by NIMHANS, Karnataka in collaboration with the Central Health Ministry.