Think of how worrisome this epidemic is to rational folks sheltering in comfort at home. Now, consider the mentally ill, the disturbed patients treated at a place like Mount Sinai Hospital — the psychotic and bi-polar, schizophrenic and depressed. Like your world, their worlds, too, are turned upside down, though they often have far less ability to cope with events that even the most stable person can have trouble processing.
“We are seeing more patients experiencing more ill effects of emotional distress,” said Dr. Paul Berkowitz, chairman of the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Sinai.
“Not just from fears and concerns associated with the virus, but social distancing and isolation. People are having less and less contact and are more overwhelmed. Perhaps they’ll not be checking in with family members, perhaps [they’ll be] coming off medication, relapsing on drugs or alcohol if that has been a problem. All of these make for ... more people coming in for psychiatric symptom exacerbation. We’ve seen that already at Holy Cross and Mount Sinai behavioral units.”
Staff also must make sure their own stress and anxiety doesn’t overwhelm them.
“I’ve been a disaster nurse for 25 years. I never thought I’d see this,” said Michele Mazurek, chief nursing officer for Sinai Health Systems. “We’re seeing hardened nurses having a rough time.”
Early on, a doctor at Sinai contracted COVID-19. That rattled everyone.
“When we had a caregiver test positive, it caused a lot of concern,” said nurse Adam Garrison. “It really brought the reality to the caregivers. It was an eye-opener: ‘This can happen to me.’”
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