Almost one year after the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Oklahoma, the pandemic continues to take its toll on the nurses, doctors and healthcare workers fighting the virus. News On 6 talked to a group of nurses about the pandemic’s impact on frontline health care workers and their mental health.
Health workers have been dealing with a range of mental health issues over the past year. A recent survey by Mental Health America found that 93 percent of medical workers are experiencing stress.
“I'd get home and I'm just alone in my thoughts, you know, for hours,” one Tulsa nurse said.
86 percent reported anxiety; 76 percent reported feeling burned out; 70 percent say they have trouble sleeping; and 57 percent have had changes in appetite. According to the study, only 35 percent of health care workers said they feel like they have enough emotional support.
"I feel like our co-workers become our therapists,” another said. “Sometimes it can take a decade or longer for someone who has experienced trauma to actually recognize that what they need is some type of mental health service.”
Ariel Brown has made it her mission to help medical workers unmask their mental health issues. That's why she started the Emotional PPE Project.
"It started as a small outreach from me to a number of therapists in my network and it sort of just snowballed,” Brown said. "Some of their experiences are similar to what we've heard from veterans in the past, that what they've seen is so disturbing that they really don't want to tell their loved ones."
Dr. Connie Fox is one of the therapists in Oklahoma who volunteers her time to help. She said she’s already seeing signs that the pandemic could lead to PTSD for some in the health care industry.
“Even with the first responders who were involved with the Murrow building, we know that some of them are only now or fairly recently seeking help,” Fox said.
"I hope that the voice I can be is that if you're dealing with those things, to reach out,” a Tulsa nurse told News On 6. “There doesn't have to be a facade. You're still an awesome caregiver. You're still that person that you are."