An Unprecedented Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the severe mental health crisis American doctors face.


Claudia Zacarias, Staff Writer

We owe a lot to our medical professionals, our “heroes without capes.” We have always relied heavily on their ability to care for us and our loved ones. We love our doctors, but they need something more tangible from us than just our admiration.

Life and work for medical professionals were already stressful before COVID struck. According to a review presented at the American Psychiatry Association annual meeting in May 2018, doctors had a suicide rate of 28 to 40 per 100,000–more than double the rate of the general population. In fact, there were an estimated 300 to 400 doctors taking their own lives each year—about one doctor every day. Physicians likely have among the highest rates of suicide amongst professions for several reasons: undertreated depression and burnout as a result of a stressful work environment, a culture of stoicism and self-reliance, time constraints, fears of losing their licenses over seeking help, and stigmas around mental illness. This already makes it clear that the United States must do a better job of taking care of its doctors. Doctors have to deal with seeing patients at their most vulnerable—an aspect that can heavily burden the doctors themselves. Putting others before oneself with little outside relief is unsustainable over time. 

For the average citizen, depression and anxiety have doubled as a result of the pandemic, so one can imagine how much it has spiked for medical professionals, the fighters on the frontlines of this crisis.

The onset of COVID-19 has only further compounded stress among medical professionals. Currently, a third of Americans show signs of clinical depression or anxiety according to the Census Bureau. And a KFF Tracking Poll showed that for 53% of Americans mental health had worsened as a result of the pandemic, so one can imagine how much it has spiked for medical professionals, the fighters on the frontlines of this crisis. This stress is then heightened and delegitimized by the fact that some call COVID a hoax. This can be seen in nurse Cristina Hops’s TikTok video where she says, “How dare [Donald Trump] undermine all of the work that we have done… I have seen hundreds of people suffocate to death,” in response to Trump’s tweet downplaying COVID-19. Despite putting themselves at risk every day with a virus that could kill them or someone they love, doctors have continued to take on thousands of patients without much outside assistance or government appreciation. Their mental health is getting worse. Something needs to be done. 

As much as we appreciate and clap for our medical professionals, we need to provide them with mental health resources and eliminate stigmas against mental health. Hospitals and organizations need to create a support system to help physicians. We must eliminate the idea that medical professionals do not need assistance. The most effective action you can take right now is to listen to the professionals and help flatten the curve. Stay six feet apart, wear masks, quarantine, and remember that doctors are human, just like you.