Filipino frontline healthcare workers shared how the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has affected their mental health, noting that without toughness and determination to carry out the duty, it will be hard to cope with the burnouts that come with treating the patients.
A study conducted by Frontline Heroes Office recently revealed that 46 percent of frontline workers feel COVID-19 has negatively affected mental health care, with 25 percent reporting burnout and 81 percent feeling scared of contracting the disease due to their professions.
Dubai-based nurse Nina Rigor admitted to The Filipino Times that the virus has frustrated her more ways than one, especially since she has long wanted to spend time with her family back home, but couldn’t.
“Working in a 12-hour shift with different waking hours, consistently walking, missing meal time to get the procedures and orders done on time is physically and emotionally draining. It is really hard to keep one’s sanity if you’re not strong enough,” she said.
She also said that it makes her feel depressed and annoyed whenever she sees posts on social media saying that COVID-19 is a hoax, noting that it is an insult to frontliners like her who are working hard to treat the patients.
“I wish we could just switch places with them so they would know how hard it is to work in a hospital taking care of patients, always scared of contracting COVID-19 or passing it on a sick person or someone you love,” said Rigor.
Dr. Rachelle Grafil, General Practitioner, at NMC Specialty Hospital Abu Dhabi, also told The Filipino Times that she now has become more anxious and traumatized because of the pandemic, making her feel uncertain most of the time.
“I became more cautious of the people I encounter. I rarely remove my mask in front of other people, even when eating. I see to it that I know the person that I am sharing my meal with, especially at work. Even outside, I am always aware that I have to properly wear my mask and distance from other people in order not to get the virus,” she said.
Dr. Henry V. Galuba Jr., a specialist of Internal Medicine at International Modern Hospital Dubai said that while toughness is a must, it is understandable for many frontliners to feel some form of anxiety because we have not seen a large-scale pandemic for the past decades.
“Toughness comes with dedication to work. As for the way I think and work with patients, precautions of physical distancing is being maintained but communication-wise I could say that it has been strengthened as patients became more inquisitive. Health awareness has also been intensified,” he told The Filipino Times.
He added that he knows for a fact that battling at the front lines against the disease is part of the job, and that he swore an oath to serve humanity, despite the hazards of work.
“It is such a noble profession to save lives, so to stay strong is to believe in the wonders of science, to know the men always triumphed over the biggest problems in history,” he added.
Rigor said that she is constantly exercising to release endorphins to prevent herself from being depressed, noting that she wants to ensure a healthy lifestyle so she can be healthy and be able to take care of her patients better.
As for Grafil, she said she is trying to cope with it by taking everything one day at a time.
“To have a peace of mind, I always ensure that I have enough PPEs and disinfectant at home. I also rarely spend time outside as much as before the pandemic. Somehow, it helped me save. I am also having my daily dose of Vitamin C to boost my immune system. I am just hoping and praying that one day this will be over and everything will be normal again,” she said.
The Filipino frontliners also believe that the frontliner helpline launched by the UAE will be instrumental in helping other frontliners get through the pandemic.
“I think this is a great idea, because not everyone has a good way of coping, some get really depressed that it disrupts their life really bad. It is really great to know that UAE takes care of the people who take care of people,” Rigor said.
“Definitely it can help our brave frontliners,” added Galuba. “The most important thing about mental health is to be able to voice out your feelings and get a prompt advise from the experts.”
“Yes it will definitely help. The frontliner hotline can help advice and reassure us regarding all the psychological, emotional stress and trauma that the pandemic has caused,” said Grafil.
The study of Frontline Heroes Office has led to the launch of a dedicated helpline that will provide mental health support for these frontliners.
The “Mental Health Support Line” initiative will feature a dedicated line for the frontline professionals that can be selected when calling the main 800HOPE hotline.