While it’s nothing new to hear that the COVID-19 pandemic took a disproportionate toll on those who work in healthcare, teaching, and first response careers, we are now starting to see the lingering effects that the pandemic is still having on their mental health. Today, we are seeing a depression crisis among workers in these fields. For example, more than 20% of Dr. Johns’ patients at Advanced Brain and Body Clinic are healthcare workers, teachers, or first responders.
Psychiatrist Dr. Brian Johns puts it this way: “I call it ‘COVID collateral,’ because there is a pervasive and parallel healthcare crisis resulting from the chronic stress, pressure, and isolation that has directly impacted not only entire communities but which has disproportionately weighed on our vital healthcare workers, teachers, and first responders. While many people who had coronavirus got better and returned to work, some individuals’ lives and workplaces were irrevocably changed and they continue to suffer.”
At our Minneapolis mental health clinic, we specialize in helping those with the most interminable cases of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Often, our patients have already tried two or more antidepressant medications and have not gotten the relief they need before coming to our Minneapolis clinic. Due to the extreme nature of their depression and anxiety, patients are seeking an in-depth assessment that looks at genetic factors, lifestyle, current medications, and medical history to get a targeted treatment plan that may include even stronger medications such as ketamine or esketamine (Spravato), as well as non-drug options like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
According to U.S. News, 60-75% of physicians surveyed reported having symptoms of depression, sleep disorders, and PTSD compared to roughly 40% prior to the start of the pandemic (U.S. Faces Crisis of Burned-Out Health Care Workers). The pandemic-related burnout led to a mass exodus of healthcare workers, as roughly 20% of workers in the field quit their jobs (U.S. News). Those who continued to work through the pandemic faced even higher levels of stress with staffing shortages and even sicker patients. In the aftermath of the pandemic, healthcare providers are seeing patients who waited to be seen – understandably, as hospitals were overrun with COVID patients – and are now seeking treatment at more advanced stages than they would normally see. Nurses and doctors alike are continuing to run in a “survival mode” in the hospitals that many people don’t realize we are still experiencing.
Like many workers around the world, teachers had to learn how to do their jobs remotely. However, they had the unique challenge of trying to captivate and motivate large “classrooms” of children and teens who were each in their own world full of distractions – all from behind a computer screen. With no training and no experience in handling this new virtual world of teaching, it’s no surprise that their mental health was impacted. In a report by the CDC Foundation, 27% of teachers self-reported symptoms consistent with clinical depression and 37% reported symptoms of generalized anxiety (CDC Foundation). While most schools are back to in-person learning, teachers are seeing that students have fallen behind and are struggling as they try to move ahead after the pandemic. Students are struggling to keep up, piling on to their already diminished mental health, and chronic absenteeism has increased by 12% (McKinsey).
With the increase of violent crime – up nearly 24% in the Twin Cities (MPRnews) – the job of a first responder has become more dangerous and troubling. First responders are dealing with more mental health-related cases and high-risk situations. At AB+BC, we are seeing more cases of PTSD as a result, especially among EMTs, paramedics, police, and firefighters who are first on the scene. First responders have experienced increased stress and anxiety, and research suggests that over half of frontline providers and first responders are concerned about their mental health (Pandemic Experience of First Responders: Fear, Frustration, and Stress).
While these careers have always had elevated levels of stress, the pandemic and its aftereffects have put extreme pressure on the mental health of our friends, family, and neighbors in these fields. The best thing we can do to support these individuals is to make sure that we are taking care of our own mental health needs, and watching for signs that others may need help. By doing our part to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, we can help limit the dangerous encounters that our doctors, nurses, teachers, and first responders will need to face in the future.
No one is above mental health. It takes strength to ask for help. Thank you to these leaders for taking their mental health seriously so that they can be at their best when we need them.
AB+BC is a holistic treatment-resistant depression clinic in Minneapolis-St. Paul specializing in TMS, ketamine and esketamine (Spravato) treatments. Our two founding psychiatrists are board-certified MDs and many years’ experience in practicing psychiatric medicine combined with holistic brain health best practices. AB+BC is the only clinic to offer all four routes of ketamine administration prescribed by mental health doctors.