Health Care Workers Feeling Mental Stress From COVID-19 Can Get Free Support

A phone and stethoscope
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A phone and stethoscope
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Health Care Workers Feeling Mental Stress From COVID-19 Can Get Free Support

The Chicago Medical Society is adding its name to the list of groups trying to get mental health care to frontline workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group, which works with about 4,000 physicians in the Chicago area, launched a telemedicine platform Monday that allows frontline workers to receive confidential psychological care from about a dozen volunteer licensed mental health providers.

That’s after doctors in cities across the U.S., including in Chicago, have spoken up about how the pandemic is impacting their mental health, and experts have been warning that prolonged work without mental health care could lead to long-term effects such as PTSD.

In a survey of 716 doctors the Chicago Medical Society conducted recently, 65% said they are experiencing grief in the face of caring for patients who have died from COVID-19. And 35% said they felt guilty about COVID-19 patients dying.

“Often those physicians were the last people that spoke with those patients,” said Dr. Jay Chauhan, President of the Chicago Medical Society. “[They] had to communicate back and forth between those family members and felt a great amount of grief as a result.”

The free telemedicine platform will only be available to health care workers such as nurses, pharmacists, social workers and room cleaners who are involved with caring for COVID-19 patients. To get access, workers can contact the Chicago Medical Society.

Several hospitals have introduced or beefed up their wellness programs to address the mental health needs of workers during the pandemic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, in Chicago has also been providing free support groups to frontline workers.

Some doctors have expressed wariness about using those programs, though, due to a fear that they’ll be identified and judged for seeking mental health help.

The Chicago Medical Society hopes the confidential nature of their platform will be a comfort to health care workers in need of mental health services.

Mariah Woelfel is a general assignment reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @MariahWoelfel.