She said that Covid-19 has created a situation where intense emotional stress has placed additional difficulties on doctors. Valaine emphasized that a study on the mental health of medical staff during the Covid-19 crisis had been carried out at the start of the emergency.
Third- to fifth-level inpatients, the Emergency Medical Service (NMPD), the RSU Institute of Dentistry and GP practices were invited to participate in the study. The first round of the study involved 844 physicians, of whom 350 were physicians and 385 were nurses and physician assistants.
“The study identified depression, anxiety symptoms and self-esteem indicators, as well as other factors that could potentially be related to mental health. What we found was quite alarming data,” Valaine said.
The results of the first round of the study showed that depressive symptoms were found in 25% of cases and anxiety symptoms in 17%. In the next round of studies, which took place three months later, 374 doctors continued to participate, with a slight increase in depressive symptoms of one percentage point to 26% and an increase in anxiety symptoms from 17% to 20%.
“These data are high. Publications around the world show that medical staff are more likely to have anxiety and depression symptoms than the general population,” Valaine said.
Referring to the doctoral dissertation of psychotherapist Roland Ivanov, in which he concluded that 14.7% of patients had symptoms of depression and 10% had anxiety symptoms in a study of general practitioners, the resident doctor in psychotherapy found that these indicators were twice as large.
Therefore, in her opinion, it is important to talk about the mental health of medical staff. Valaine noted that some of the vulnerabilities are low funding, limited access to state-funded health care, features of the primary health care system, and a small number of medical staff.
Commenting on the mental health of medical staff, the resident psychotherapist indicated that physicians with depression or depressive symptoms were at greater risk of medical errors. She pointed out that if a mistake is made, the symptoms of depression increase, while mistakes with more depressive symptoms also lead to mistakes. Also, the daily stress to which doctors are exposed leads to an increased risk of mental disorders, the risk of the use of addictive substances and a general impairment of functioning, Valaine explained.
She pointed out that the results of the study show that those who are the first to come into contact with the patient are at risk of mental disorders. Most often they are women and those medical staff with more than ten years of experience. The risk is also increased by the presence of co-morbidities and previous emotional disorders.
“We decided to do this study during a pandemic because of the increased workload of medical staff. Many physicians are worried about not passing the infection on to their loved ones. This emotional distress reduces the ability to concentrate and make decisions that are vital to a doctor’s job,” .
She pointed out that mental health prevention in the world received little resources and received relatively little attention. In most cases, resources are invested in mental health when the problem occurs or when the consequences are already to be faced.
According to Valaine, experts around the world talk about the importance of the ability of hospitals or medical institutions to take responsibility and implement prevention measures in good time, which can be, for example, educational lectures or the involvement of specialists in the form of consultations.
“Why are these results so alarming? Similar studies are currently being conducted around the world, and based on meta-analysis, around 23% of doctors have symptoms of anxiety or depression during a Covid-19 pandemic, but most of these data come from countries that where the prevalence of Covid-19 was higher than in the first wave in Latvia, “Valaine emphasized, noting that in Latvia, which was initially considered a success story, the rates are the same or even more alarming than in the more affected countries.
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