Among those high on the list for that concern are front line medical workers.
The stress on the medical community has become so intense lately due to COVID-19 that UT Health San Antonio expanded its online wellness screening program to help all employees keep up with their emotional health. The expansion of the program comes on the heels of this week’s news that an otherwise healthy emergency room doctor in New York who treated coronavirus patients committed suicide.
“I’ve heard a lot of cases where physician mothers are worried about bringing this (COVID-19) home to their babies. I’ve heard of other people really worried about bringing it home to their aging parents," said Dr. Eliza Maldonado, a member of the UT Health San Antonio Wellness Team.
The traditionally long hours on the job combined with separation from family support systems only adds to the stress.
Maldonado’s team has been using an online mental health screening tool for doctors and nurses for years. The tool asks a series of questions to gauge the emotional health of the person online and suggest courses of action. The person accessing the tool is anonymous because the stigma of mental health conditions in the medical industry is complicated by fears that any findings might impact licensing and malpractice insurance.
UT Health San Antonio has now expanded the program to include more employees.
“Recently we have extended this service to faculty members, as well, so they will have access now to this anonymous online self-screener and also to our counseling services through the platform," Maldonado said.
Worry and fear in this sector stem from feeling simply overwhelmed that there is only treatment and no cure and the economic impact of being sidelined because some workers have been furloughed at clinics and hospitals as elective surgeries were cancelled. And then there is something called “moral injury,” where the health care professional cannot cope with being unable to be a part of healing.
"I have seen a lot of people struggling with that lately. As you know, they’re kind of bracing themselves for something that has not yet happened,” Maldonado said.
If you are an employee of UT Health System and are feeling emotionally fragile and need help, you are invited to take part in the UT Employee Assistance Program at 1-800-346-3549.
Other resources include:
Deer Oak Employee Assistance Program for UT Health San Antonio physician residents and fellows at 1-866-327-2400.
UT Health San Antonio GME Wellness Program for physician residents and fellows: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
The Bexar Facts-KSAT-Rivard Report Poll was conducted from April 16-20 by phone and internet. It includes responses from 668 registered Bexar County voters of different income and education levels, race, age, gender and political party affiliation. Four out of five respondents answered in English, while one out of five answered in Spanish. The poll’s margin of error is 4%.
Didn’t get called for the poll, but still want to have your voice heard? Take the poll, via Bexar Facts, here.