Mind in the times of Corona

As the healthcare fraternity continues its battle against the corona virus , there remains a hidden battle that is being waged everyday that is not being brought to the forefront: The mental health of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers during the pandemic

It was a privilege to discuss  with Dr. Ajit Bhide: Past president of the Indian Psychiatric Society and a renowned theatre personality on the mental health challenges which would be faced by the healthcare fraternity. Dr Bhide elaborated that contrary to other disaster events, during the pandemic, the risk of being infected and personal danger apart from being constantly involved in the care of critically ill patients could lead to anxiety and later on depression. With alteration of the biological rhythm, Insomnia could also be a major problem that could be encountered by the medical personnel. He went on to suggest that work prioritization and effective communication within the organization and treating team would help in mitigating work fatigue.

Dr.Bhide and me also discussed the impact of Social media in the times of a pandemic.  The exponential impact of social media and the internet has resulted in what is being termed an “Infodemic”. Social media and the internet has  helped in providing  key information and latest updates to the healthcare fraternity  leading to better knowledge translating into better clinical practises. However , on the other hand: a constant barrage of numbers, trends of breaking news, learning about deaths and morbidities of healthcare fraternity elsewhere and ever growing fake news is playing a role in exacerbating panic.

One of the solutions which needs to be implemented immediately is to have a mental health care profession: either a trained clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist as part of the Covid care team. Dr. Bhide suggested that validated questionnaires should be administered at regular weekly or fortnightly intervals to screen for mental health issues amongst the health care team involved in treating COVID-19 patients. One of the key aspects also discussed was that it should be mandatory to give enough time to recuperate and have rotation of duties which could go a long way in  preventing mental health issues .

We also discussed that it is very important to avoid stigmatization of doctors and nurses who seek help for mental health challenges and hence there is a need for a regular debrief  of the doctors and nurses during the pandemic with a mental health professional  in a confidential and conducive environment .

Dr. Ajit Bhide stressed on the fact that the debrief needs to be a long term ongoing process even after the pandemic has subsided to screen for post traumatic stress disorder and  depression which can set in much later .He highlighted that it is  important to educate and prevent substance abuse amongst healthcare professional as studies have shown that they are at an increased risk of it.

It is imperative that government and institutes take note of this challenge too and continue to implement solutions, as in this long drawn out battle, a strong mind is of utmost value. As  a quote goes by Edmond Mbiaka “At the end of your struggles, challenges, and obstacles comes the mental strength to cross many boundaries in the future.”

Dr.Nitin Yashas is a medical oncology resident and Co-founder of TREAT by ALTERDOCTORS

Featured image by Thanmayi GS: Final year MBBS student @cathartemis and associate editor at TREAT by ALTERDOCTORS

This interview was conducted in April at the beginning of the Pandemic to highlight and focus on the mental health of healthcare workers during Corona.