The death of an emergency doctor in Granby, Que., Has caused shock waves across the Canadian medical community.
Dr. Karine Dion, 35, who was also the mother of a young son, died of suicide in early January. Her family said it was the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in her death.
“Her family and husband went public with this death to educate the public of the immense hardship health workers are experiencing on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Dr. Naheed Dosani, palliative care practitioner and health equity activist.
“During this pandemic, our frontline health workers, my colleagues, have experienced significant psychological stress, loss, trauma, grief, and a burden that is really difficult to put into words.”
The burnout rate of doctors practicing emergency medicine is estimated to be around 86 percent, according to a recent survey by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP), the national organization that represents emergency doctors across the country.
The same survey found that “Frontline workers will be affected by COVID-19 both during and after the pandemic”.
Around 14 percent of respondents had contemplated suicide during their careers in emergency medicine, and of those doctors nearly six percent had actively contemplated suicide in the past year.
“We know whenever there is stress from the additional pressure and the stress is lengthening. We have the feeling that there is a feeling of powerlessness and helplessness.” It increases or can increase the risk of psychological risk conditions, physical risk conditions and also burnout, ”explained Dr. Katy Kamkar, a Toronto-based clinical psychologist.
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Dosani said the pandemic had exponentially added pressure on healthcare workers.
“Working in the health care sector at the start of college is a very stressful thing and experience for people who have stress, this mental agony, it has doubled, it has tripled, it has grown exponentially,” he said.
“There is so much that health workers see and experience and this creates a sense of loss and sadness that many of us have never experienced before.”
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Dosani also said that “grief circles” are more common for himself and his team.
“Our circles of grief have doubled, we have more than ever because more people are sick and more people are dying than ever before,” he said.
“For many people, it is the first time that people actually had space to just talk. With all of the talk about improving people’s health and health care, we spend very little time supporting our own on mental health and resilience and wellbeing. “
Dosani said the gatherings were an answer to that, but he feared they would “just scratch the surface”.
He explained that a “circle of mourning” is for the health team caring for a deceased patient or after a traumatic event, to take a break, perhaps light a candle, and reflect.
During the pandemic, the team can meet virtually.
Dosani said if the mental health of frontline workers is not prioritized now, “We will not beat COVID-19.”
“Our health workers will experience more psychological distress, more grief, more loss, more trauma, and this will place them in a situation where they cannot better serve our communities.” And we don’t want to go through this broken, more broken than we already are, ”he said.
Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO), said the problem of grief and mental health support isn’t just relevant to emergency medical services.
“Every time I think of my colleagues at the front … it scares me, it scares me,” she said.
“Hold on, doctors, nurses, rescue workers, anyone in essential service, including teachers, hold on.
“Remember, one in five people has mental illness (and) nurses, doctors, PSWs are no different.”
A friend of Dion’s started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her son Jacob. More than $ 29,000 was raised early Tuesday.
Donations can also be made to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In an emergency, please call 911 for immediate assistance.
For a directory of support services in your area, see Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
Learn more about how you can help someone in crisis Here.
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