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Very close to burnout: Healthcare workers and their mental health.

Our Doctors danced for us, applauded us and are helping us through this pandemic. But are we helping them?

Brut India recently posted this video message by Dr Trupti Gilada, infectious diseases specialist, requesting residents of the country to stay home and talking about the deteriorating state of the country. I’ve never seen a doctor cry and plead. Seeing her like that made me realize how badly we have failed them and their efforts. Instead of listening to them and taking the pandemic seriously, we could not stay put.

Covidiots are busy being ‘invincible’ heroes and the government is busy propagating their propaganda and agenda. The situation that we are in right now is because we took the pandemic way too lightly after things started getting back to normal. This time it is back but way worse than it has ever been. Record number in cases and deaths each day. This sudden increase in the number of death has led to non-stop cremation, furnaces at Gujarat crematorium have been running for so long, non-stop, that metal parts have started to melt.

In a country where Doctors and the medical staff are compared to God, we sure do "respect" them a lot. Violence against them is increasing at an alarming rate. In an ongoing study by Indian Medical Association, findings show at almost 75% of doctors in India have faced violence at the workplace at some point of time in their life.

The second wave has crippled the medical infrastructure, from a shortage of oxygen and beds in hospitals to the numbers of deaths each day. From the mass hysteria to family members subjecting their frustration and grief to the healthcare workers. The healthcare staff is seeing it all, experiencing it all. Things are no different now, violence towards doctors and nurses have only increased during the pandemic.

A video last year went viral on social media platforms wherein healthcare professionals in Indore were attacked by the locals. They pelted them with stones. In another incident, two female doctors were beaten by a fruit seller. In Chennai, a doctor who had died due to COVID 19 was denied burial at two different cemeteries and his family members were attacked by a mob. Seeing this inhumane behaviour by the public, the government came up with an immediate ordinance for frontline workers. Under this ordinance, any person attacking a health worker involved in treating COVID-19 can be jailed for up to 7 years. After this, the violence did died down, but now the public, and ministers as well, took up heckling.

Few heckling incidents, recently the Union Culture Minister, Prahlad Patel, threatened to slap an attendant outside a public hospital in Damoh, Madhya Pradesh. Another was of Shiv Sena corporator, Sandhya Doshi, seen using her power and creating a scene. She spoke in an uncivilised manner, later doctors at the hospital threatened to resign. In MP recently, some Congress leader misbehaved and spoke rudely with a doctor, publicly, after the death of a patient. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

We don’t realize that these healthcare workers haven’t had a break, for an entire year. Now, they have to do it all over again but they’ve already crossed burnout and we fail to notice the impact this has had on them. Covid has had a great impact on the mental well-being of our doctors and multiple studies have come up in the past year shining light on them. Multiple external and internal factors led to this impact on their psychological well being.

“The stigma the medical staff faces, social ostracism faced by some, juggling between personal and professional lives, overburdening of work, and experiencing burnout due to increased pressure, lack of safety equipment such as PPE and masks, and trauma of watching a large number of patients dying alone in the isolation ward, among other factors. Notably, working exhaustively may not imply that this healthcare staff is immune to psychological effects. They may have a similar level of vicarious traumatisation as that of the general public” - In a recent study report by the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences.

The virus and the pandemic have instilled fear not only amongst the public but all healthcare professionals. Plus the conflict between maintaining social distance and their duty to treat individuals and also themselves creates cognitive dissonance which leads to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. The lack of resources such as PPE kits, hygienic isolation facilities also contributes as a stressor to their mental well being. The PPE kits when available is not easy to function in. It limits the individual from refreshing themselves and using the loo. This causes physical and mental fatigue, and it is in these circumstances that our healthcare workers have to work for 8 to 12 hours a day and longer. To add to the existing stressors, these workers face constant scrutiny from the public, press and administration.

It is very important that the mental well being of our healthcare workers also becomes our primary focus. Government and medical institutions should provide counselling online and psychotherapy sessions to our frontline workers. It is a necessity now. The dismaying impact of this pandemic can be controlled by multiple processes, such as meditation, breathing and other relaxation techniques.

“Supportive psychotherapy, mindfulness techniques, psychoeducation, activity scheduling, grief counselling, and sleep hygiene are some of the ways that can ensure the mental sanity of the healthcare workers during this overwhelming time. A team of trained personnel’s should be made available for quick assessment of the psychological issues and its remediation.” - In a recent study report by the Indian Journal of Medical Sciences.

It is our time to boost and uplift them so they can do what they do best, save us and this country.


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