The Mental Health Impact On Healthworkers

Illustration by Barry Pyngrope

Months spent at home. The threat of boredom and isolation heavy on our minds. Learning skills that we never would have thought to even venture into. Sewing. Baking. Learning a new language. Becoming an amateur dancer through attempting TikTok dances.

Anything to stave off the fear and the monotony of staying home.

But what about those that don’t have the option to stay home? The ones that have to face the virus head on every day. Donning masks and PPE suits to keep the virus at bay while also being barraged with hateful comments and snide remarks. Willingly exposing themselves to the virus that we have been staying home for.

How has the virus affected health care workers?

Front liners who are doing their best to treat patients under their care are met with aggression and violence.

On the 27th of April, 2021, hospital staff at the Apollo Hospital in Delhi, were abused by the family of a Covid patient who died in their care.

On the 1st of June, a doctor working at a Covid care centre in Assam was assaulted after a patient who had contracted the virus died under his care. Dr Seuj Kumar Senapati was attacked by relatives of the patient upon receiving news of the patient’s death.

The problems that the healthcare community faces have escalated from distrust to assault.

The hatred and fear that was stirred within people’s hearts when Dr. Sailo – a prominent doctor in Meghalaya passed shed light on the thankless job of being a healthcare worker.

The pandora’s box of the vile human tendencies of self-preservation and selfishness was unleashed following the arrival of the first Covid related death in Meghalaya. Dr. Sailo, who lost his life to the virus was denied rest at his farmhouse in Ri Bhoi District. Protests broke out on the streets of Jhalupara speaking against the burial of Dr Sailo’s ashes.

The irony of it is that, in all probability, Dr Sailo had treated one of those people. Or at the very least they had sought treatment in his hospital.

The virus has unleashed the worst of humanity. Feelings of community and solidarity all but destroyed.

How has the virus affected health care workers?

Amongst 12 healthcare professionals interviewed for the article, 58.4% of respondents rated with 4 and above when asked to rate their stress level on a scale of 1-5.

The workload since the onset of Covid has increased dramatically, Dr. G. Sharma has stated, “Normal working in hospitals has been diverted to take care of covid patients and has impacted us physically and mentally.”

A staff nurse, LMR, said “I don’t have time for my family. I hardly get to meet them.”

One can only imagine how isolating it must be, to work long hours while also not being able to spend time with your family.

Illustration by Barry Pyngrope

Mental health workers have seen a rise of patients affected by Covid. Many are burdened by the extra hours. Mental health care services are often under-utilised or unavailable not to mention other barriers like the stigma surrounding it. The pandemic has highlighted the underfunding of mental health care services and the increasing demand for mental health services.

Unless steps are undertaken to address the problem, a mental health crisis is in the offing.

We see the impact of Covid on the news and the distress it causes those who have lost their loved ones to Covid. But rarely do we hear of how healthcare workers feel when they lose their patients to Covid.

Overwhelmed. Helpless. Anxious.

Witnessing Covid’s chokehold on humanity cannot be anything less than terrible. Especially when you are only met by distrust when it comes to the people you are trying to help.

Since the beginning of Covid, Facebook posts and videos claiming the alleged adverse effects of the Covid vaccine have infiltrated everyone’s social media feeds.

KS, a clinical psychologist says, “The misinformation regarding the virus in general and the vaccine in particular needs to be addressed. Awareness programmes to address the fear and concerns that people have.”

Other healthcare workers echo the opinion of KS, with Dr. AN, a senior resident saying, “I can’t comprehend why they still think Covid is not real even after seeing how many people have lost their lives. And then again why deny the Covid Vaccine when they still get their kids vaccinated as per their immunization schedule.”

Synrem, a staff nurse reiterates the thoughts of all healthcare workers interviewed, “In my opinion I would say since I’m a healthcare worker I have seen that the majority of the Covid patients who have taken the vaccine have less chances of being in a serious or critical situation. That means the recovery rate is good except for those who have underlying diseases. But for those who haven’t been vaccinated the recovery rate is very low.”

A little sympathy for healthcare workers is the least that they ask for while they battle their own isolation and anxiety. While also dealing with being overworked due to the insufficient manpower.

The 12 health workers interviewed all unanimously agree that the public could, at the very least, maintain social distancing, wear masks, get vaccinated, and follow the government protocols that have been put in place.

While healthcare workers try their best to treat those afflicted with the illness, the cooperation of the public is detrimental to the containment of the virus while also minimising the loss of life.

Author: Katelyn Syiem

Katelyn Syiem is an editorial intern. She’s pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at St.Edmunds College, Shillong.
A self-proclaimed bookworm with a proclivity for extravagant fashion and K-pop, she lets personality tests determine who she’ll be for the month.

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