OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Healthcare workers are in trouble and fighting their own war against the coronavirus. Their mental health is declining and they need help.
"Recent research indicates that statistically, 16% of health care workers were experiencing symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), that's gone up to 36% here since the pandemic hit in 2020," said Laura Fischer, a Clinical Manager with nonprofit, At Ease USA.
Fischer worries about what could happen if workers do not get the help they need.
"The worst-case scenario is someone would end up so distressed — they end up committing suicide," Fischer said. "We see an increase in substance abuse, we see an increase in depression, anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia."
Experts say the emotional and physical stress of an infectious disease outbreak is heavy to bear.
"The politics around COVID, all of the, 'Do I vaccinate, do I not?'" said Dr. Michael Schooff with CHI Health. "And what's the right treatment and is it real or not? That puts a strain on us too."
Dr. David Cates with Nebraska Medicine says the pandemic was heartbreaking for many frontline workers to witness.
"They were dealing with dying patients, without their families being able to be with them, sometimes literally, holding a patient's hand in one hand and holding an IPAD in the other so they could say goodbye to family members," Cates said.
Ellen McElderry with the Methodist Community Counseling Program outlines what we need to look out for if someone is struggling.
"Is that particular person having a significant change in their regular behaviors?" McElderry said. "Does their attitude or personality seem significantly different? Are they talking about difficulty concentrating? Problem-solving? Feeling restless and sleeping?"
Schooff says self-care needs to be prioritized.
"The system's broken and it will break us if we're not careful too," Schooff said.
An emotional support line for those dealing with the stress of COVID-19 is (402) 815-8255.