Ophthalmologists fight mental health battle in times of COVID-19
The biggest takeaway from the current scenario is the amplification of the fact that mental health issues can be anyone’s truth. From migrant workers, who are trudging long distances with almost no awareness of the disease's impact, to healthcare professionals, who armed with knowledge and technique are at the forefront of the country’s COVID-19 battle - we are all vulnerable.
Ever since the world has been enveloped by the coronavirus outbreak, healthcare experts - World Health Organisation included - have been asserting the need to keep in mind the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
And the biggest takeaway from the current scenario is the amplification of the fact that mental health issues can be anyone’s truth. From migrant workers, who are trudging long distances with almost no awareness of the disease's impact, to healthcare professionals, who armed with knowledge and technique are at the forefront of the country’s COVID-19 battle - we are all vulnerable.
The impact of the crisis on doctors was recently reinstated by an online study conducted by L V Prasad Eye Institute in collaboration with the All India Ophthalmological Society and The George Institute for Global Health, India.
The study was aimed at evaluating the psychological impact of the COVID-19 crisis on trainees and practising ophthalmologists in India. The findings demonstrated that a significantly high proportion of ophthalmologists were affected psychologically as they are at an increased risk of close contact with the patient’s eyes and face.
The study, which surveyed 2,355 ophthalmologists and eye specialists-in-training in the age group of 25 to 82 years, revealed that 32.5% of them exhibited some degree of depression. Of this 3.2% also exhibited suicidal tendencies for half of a 14-day survey period.
The study noted that depression was significantly higher in younger ophthalmologists, especially among non-practising ophthalmologists. Researchers attributed this to concerns about training or professional growth, difficulty in meeting living expenses.
“The national and state ophthalmology societies, health administration, and the government should be cognizant of the need to support the mental health of all the healthcare workers, and not only those in the frontline of the management of COVID-19 infection,” said Dr Rohit C Khanna, Epidemiologist and Director – rural eye care services, L V Prasad Eye Institute.
The study reinforces the need to personalise the mental care system to suit the needs of healthcare professionals. In times when doctors and health staff are working against the norms, fighting social prejudices as well as a shortage of healthcare infrastructure, creating a safe space is the least we as a country can do for them.