Friday, April 10, 2020

‘We’re scared. They’re scared’

Gabrielle DuFour
     Many struggle with COVID-19 without ever being infected.
     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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  1. The photos in this series that we see here in the blog are so much more evocative than what we see in the paper. These heroic nurses jump off the screen with their masked beauty and determined gaze. I prefer paper (news, books, magazines, etc.) to electronic media, but with respect to photography, the latter has many advantages.


    1. Perhaps being on screen they pop more. With today's, we used different values in selecting photos. I chose to feature the one I did today because I thought it was the strongest photo. The editor, however, was concerned that it isn't the person who says the quote in the headline about being scared, and worried people would associate the two, incorrectly. Who's right? I think we both are. The paper, going to a much wider audience than the blog, has to guard against misunderstanding, while here at the blog, with our more, ah, curated readership, I can take greater creative risks. Does that make sense?

    2. Of course it makes sense. We read your work because we trust you. On a related note, my son’s girlfriend is a Psychiatrist at a Chicago Mental Health Hospital. She shares the same concerns stated in your article. My son stays home because he has no idea when she comes home every day if he or she have the virus. On top of that, she’s afraid that the Psych wards at general hospitals may transfer patients to her facility to make room for COVID patients thereby overwhelming her hospital.


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