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Health Care Provider Suicide: Another Tragic Toll of the Coronavirus Pandemic

*** CCM Ethics, RN and SW hours ***
Originally presented at 2021 Annual Conference

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, suicide is quietly killing front-line health workers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been over 223,070 deaths in the United States due to COVID-19. CDC researchers have identified a substantial increase in anxiety and depression among health care providers. This group of essential workers has been identified as having a disproportionately high risk for suicide ideation and increased high levels of anxiety as they are worried about their own health, exposure to their families, sick colleagues, not having enough personal protective equipment, and feeling that they are not doing enough for patients. A study looking at the mental health outcomes of 1,257 health care workers attending to COVID-19 patients in 34 hospitals in China, where the outbreak started and where more than 4,600 people have died, found that 50% showed signs of depression, 45% reported anxiety and 72% had some form of psychological distress. Although health care workers deal with death on a daily basis, they rarely witness it in such high numbers. These essential workers are experiencing firsthand trauma, PTSD, and feelings of helplessness in facing a virus that has no known treatments or vaccines. The pandemic has inflicted a personal toll on every single health-care worker. This presentation will address signs of PTSD, triggers of PTSD for health care providers, community-level efforts to identify and treat mental health issues, mental health disparities, use of telehealth to deliver treatment of mental health conditions, case management interventions as well as wellness interventions. It is hoped that bringing attention to this issue and highlighting the broad impact of the pandemic on health care providers, will highlight the need to identify, prevent and treat health care providers, address mental health disparities and lessen mental health consequences as the pandemic evolves.

  1. Recognize the signs and triggers of increased anxiety and PTSD in health care providers.
  2. Discuss mental health disparities.
  3. Identify case management interventions to lessen mental health consequences for health care providers as the pandemic evolves.