Health care workers face pandemic mental health emergency

ABC News’ Erielle Reshef reports on the pandemic’s mental health toll, and fears that some front-line health care workers face over seeking help.
8:20 | 02/16/21

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Transcript for Health care workers face pandemic mental health emergency
Throughout this pandemic health care workers have rightfully been lauded his heroes on the front lines who not only save lives but in times of the last face it many of the victims of Tobin C before. Taking their final breaths as health care workers are taking care must stay in and day out who is taking care of them and what kind of mental health holiday facing. Our area on Russia looked into the possible risks it health care professionals could face they choose to seek help for mental health. After a year of catastrophe dawn seems to be slowly breaking in the covic nineteen pandemic. Cases of the disease and hospitalizations. Are on the decline across the country vaccines are providing much needed hope. But for those health care workers on the front line. A silent crisis is making its way out of the shadows. Medical professionals coping with trauma facing tough mental health emergency. We will continue to fight. But we're exhausted and we're tired and mentally physically emotionally just worn down from. But I bet you regret thanking my dad. The past few months and I have seen in years and it's. It's not karma and takes a lot of it takes its Fourth Amendment the house. It ended with has had a terrific stream that own nurses. Doctors and nurses overwhelmed. Overworked the president of the American Medical Association telling ABC news in a statement. Acute stress among physicians which was already significant before the pandemic has increased dramatically for physicians during the last several months as the pandemic has brought new challenges an exceptional demands. In April of 20/20. Dr. lord of green the medical director of the emergency department at new York presbyterian Allen hospital. To died by suicide. Her family saying the weight of the un relenting pandemic crushed a seemingly indomitable spirit tell us a little bit about your sister who she was the kind of physician that she was. My sister aren't analysts you rock star. When she easier smarter. That's virtually and then she is an emergency physician in Manhattan. She was very active studio border tons of friends in New York Saddam just kind of living her dream. And your sister your sister Ann Lott never exhibited any signs of mental health distressed in the past her. Never not once that's what makes this entire experience so absolutely outrageous and unbelievable. It was only after she contracted coated. Didn't see any good on her cognitive abilities. What do you think was the tipping point for her. Please take away the sleep you take away the rest you compounded with that daily should keep all the neediest humor tiny. And again at that time in the new do you what to do witness actress this isn't Gary begin. It was a perfect storm. Her family says doctor green's case underscores an urgent need for a mental health reckoning and hospitals across the country. And the numbers were already staggering prior to the pandemic. Estimated three to 400 physicians died by suicide annually. That's one physician per day. At this time experts say there is still not enough data to assess the psychological told cove it has had on physicians in the past year. How are we going to be able to take care than many people are little bench need to friend doctor Mona Massood and outpatient psychiatrist and Philadelphia is working to change that. Creating a physician support line. Do you racism doesn't support burn them they help you. Physician support line is a free confidential service created in March 220 to support positions during a pandemic and to date a team of 700 volunteers psychiatrists have already provided care to over 2000 physicians and medical students in. Kentucky based physician Genevieve Jacobs says just one call gave her the support she needed it was. Nice and knew it was outside my place of work because then it doesn't mean that can be brought or. You'll think person's thinking about when your English the government airway are. Doctor Massoud says it's essential the service remain confidential. Counterweight to what she says is a pervasive mental health stigma. In a professional medical community. There is in an apparent reluctance amongst physicians who I admit that they are you know struggling. Arms beanie. To seek help for that struggle doctor Massoud says anonymity also protects physicians from potential professional repercussions I knew about it and working and one we're going to be using the positions of our lines are utilizing its resource. I could beat me here that it's not on computer according to any. Systemic and cookie. In some cases doctors and nurses are faced with disclosure requirements about mental health in important job and state licensing applications. While only license your questions about current impairment are appropriate under the 88 doctors we spoke to said the nature of some questions still continues to deter medical staff from seeking help them. According to a 2019 study over half of nurse pre licensing forms complied with eighty aim rules surrounding mental health questions to burn. However roughly 40% of nurse licensing questions still probed. Far beyond the scope of current impairment and according to the journal of American academy of psychiatry and the law in 2018 only eighteen states had physician licensing applications that were 88 compliant. That same hearing the federation of state medical boards released recommendations to reduce stigma tightening questions on licensing applications from. And promote mental well being a physician. 39 medical boards across the US have updated that language so far. Doctor can Templeton is on the board of the Kansas board of healing arts and worked to update the language in her state to meet those standards. Positions can't help others. Until they help themselves she's now launched to humans before heroes initiative along with the American medical women's association to help other states do the same. What we're trying to do is encourage them. And that means removing the hurdles to seek care. Well New York is one of the few states that doesn't ask mental health questions on its licensing forms for. Doctor Breen Stanley says that culture within the medical community regarding mental health was crippling. She was worried about her license she was worried about her center her peers saying it was an Unser -- scenario. In a statement New York Presbyterian Hospital tells ABC news we continue to mourn the passing of doctor Lorna green doctor Breen was a heroic remarkably skilled compassionate and dedicated clinical leader who cared deeply for her patients and colleagues. New York presbyterian and Columbia began offering robust mental health services including an emerging counseling service to all of our Frontline staff in late march 22 when he moved it is essential that our colleagues on the front lines. Continue to have access to emotional support. And practical strategies to enhance coping yeah doctor Breen sister and brother in law are now working to break down stigma than other barriers to mental health care at the national level partnering with members of congress to introduce that doctor Lorna brain health care provider protection act in an effort to pursue. Lasting change. We're coming up on the one year. How are you holding up and what are you thinking about and you mark this milestone that's like saying is that we modernize the stern and then we. Let people know how dentist uses then four. So many people who have been devastated but. I view this is. And an error this is a mistake and could have been avoided. I like to say in my sister's honored and we are helping other people and in. Aerial rash asked. ABC news New York. Our thanks stereo for bringing that to us if you're struggling with thoughts of suicide are worried about a friend or loved one help is available. Call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1802738255. Or text talk. To 741741. For free confidential emotional support. 24 hours a day seven days a week.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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