Doctor offers mental health support & advice to burned-out health workers

An anesthesiologist knows what it feels like to burn-out in the medical field. It became so tough for her, she became suicidal. She now considers herself to be an overcomer, but she's concerned about anyone who has mental health issues, especially medical workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here's why she's speaking up about a very dark and private time in her life.

"Number one, because I've gone through it. Number two, because I had a colleague who died by suicide. Number three, I suffered severe burnout and I took another path, and I was able to pull myself back in to practicing medicine. I recently retired last year, been practicing for 40 years, and I've just made this my mission now to use my time, until I have no more time, to talk to other healthcare workers about what they're experiencing, and how I was able to overcome," states Dr. Charity.

Dr. Charity is especially concerned about burn-out during the pandemic, because many medical workers are spending more time than usual at hospitals, are physically uncomfortable from all of the protective gear they're wearing, and mentally drained from difficulties during the pandemic. Typically, we can all turn to family and friends to help us work through some of these tough things, but it’s harder to do that right now.

"The most important thing is, even with the social distancing that we're going through right now, we still have to stay connected. This is not something that we could suffer in silence and be alone. People with mental illness because of this stigma have continued to suffer in silence for a long time. We can no longer do that. We now have the support, and it's difficult to get because we are social distancing. So, those people who are in the fray, who are out there on front lines, they need to find a lifeline! Someone, anyone who can listen to them. Talk therapy works great. They need to do talk therapy, talk it out. It's better to externalize it than to internalize it, because when we internalize it, it will eat away at us and we will have problems," states Dr. Charity.

Dr. Charity suggests that people try to find a specialist to discuss it or a loved one who truly "gets" what they're dealing with.

"As long as they understand. The biggest problem is the fact that some people, if they've never been through it, don't understand it. So when a family member comes home and says, 'I saw death and destruction all day long. You know my mask has left this design on my face,' some people don't understand.  I'm married to another physician. I can't imagine what it might be like to be a physician, not married to one and trying to explain to them what you just experienced. So it's most important whether we like it or not to have someone who understands us to help us," says Dr. Charity.

Dr. Charity says she's beyond thankful for her family, because they helped keep her alive.

"I almost died by suicide many years ago. The person who saved me was number one my mother, but my husband. He saw the signs, he knew I needed help. We as physicians and healthcare workers, we don't want to reveal our vulnerability. We will not tell people how we're doing and he recognized that," states Dr. Charity. "If we could hug each other, I would say hug each other and say, it's going to be okay. We have the resources out there for people, we have the suicide hotline. There are telehealth psychiatrists out there now. If you need to talk, it's time to be transparent so that you can get help. We (medical workers) cannot save the lives of others, if we don't save ourselves first. Medicine is calling, but it's not worth dying for."

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If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.