Covid-19 presents the front-line of a new uncertain battle for the human race. Thousands of health care personnel are working round the clock to confront it head-on.
While this has recently been highlighted across the world, little has been offered to ensure their mental health and well-being.
Most people working in health care emergencies are likely to experience some stress. Some of them may experience distress to the point of not being able to carry on. They require help. The health care advisory for the frontline warriors issued by the ministry of family health and welfare recognizes ‘burnout’ in the personnel. It is described as a triad of emotional exhaustion, loss of one's empathy and compassion, and a decreased sense of accomplishment.
A staff nurse at JP Hospital in Bhopal, Simmi S Kumar, says she has two children and her elderly parents to take care of. Her children have barely crossed 5 and one of them is disabled, she says.
Simmi says that every morning when she leaves home for the hospital, she prays to return safe and sound. There is a degree of stress that pulls her back but the call of duty makes her walk forward, she adds.
Dr Sudhir Deharia, the chief medical and health officer of Sehore, talks about the moment when he returned home after five days at work. His children stood there at the door to hug him and it broke him down, he adds.
The National Centre of Biotechnology Medicine did a survey to study the mental health issues prevailing in healthcare staff. The prevalence of sleep disturbances in nurses and physicians caring for the Covid patients was reported to be 97.4% and 97.3% respectively.
Psychiatrist Ruma Bhattacharya says over a dozen doctors from Bhopal and outside contacted her within the first few weeks to get help. Ruma says she has encountered fatigue syndrome, insomnia, performance anxiety and trauma in them.
She tells Free Press that the first few weeks were the toughest for the doctors to cope up with minimum infrastructure and safety gear. Personnel working in hospitals have experienced hurtful and stigmatizing attitudes from the public. They accuse them of being infection-carriers, says Ruma.
She further says that the angst of the female doctors is deeper than their male counterparts, for they have to manage both hospital and household. Doctors have been facing performance anxiety, says Ruma.
Most of them also experience concern that their absence will create understaffing issues if they get infected. And when they do, they experience guilt and fear of infecting their team, family and other patients, adds Bhattacharya.