Healthcare Workers Are Vulnerable to Suicide. COVID-19 Could Make It Worse

for Healthline

In late April, Dr. Lorna Breen, an emergency medicine doctor who had been treating COVID-19 patients — and had herself contracted and recovered from the illness — died by suicide.

Her father, Phillip Breen, believes the virus and the devastation it inflicted on New York City, including the hospital where Breen worked, is responsible. He told CNN, “She went down in the trenches and was killed by the enemy on the front line.” 

Frontline healthcare workers, especially those at hospitals that have been hit with surges of patients, have been faced with a confounding disease they don’t fully understand how to treat, and multiple deaths in a single shift. 

Wesley Boyd, staff psychiatrist at the Cambridge Health Alliance and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School says, “Historically, in medical training, having a patient die is seen as a failure.”

For doctors, who tend to be overachievers, Boyd says patient death after patient death — as has been happening in some hospitals with COVID-19 — has an immense mental health toll. (continued)

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Katie MacBride is a freelance journalist, essayist, and co-founder/associate editor of Anxy magazine. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Daily Beast, Vice, Playboy, and Buzzfeed, among other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @msmacb

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