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'Significant concerns' about mental health impact of Covid-19 on practitioners, non-profit says

The Practitioner Health Matters Programme today released its annual report for 2019.

Image: Shutterstock/Joyseulay

THERE ARE “SIGNIFICANT concerns” about the mental health impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health practitioners, a non-profit service has said.  

The Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP), a service which provides confidential treatment for health workers with mental health or addiction issues, today released its 2019 annual report. 

The programme offers support and medical care to doctors, dentists and pharmacists dealing with issues like anxiety, stress and depression.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to investigate the measures being taken to tackle a pandemic-induced mental health crisis in Ireland. You can help fund them here.

The service said it dealt with 77 new presentations in 2019, a 3% increase on 2018. 

Dr Íde Delargy, medical director for the PHMP, said the programme expects a further rise in practitioners coming forward due to the increased mental health burden from Covid-19. 

“We have significant concerns about the impact of the virus on practitioners’ mental health, including anxiety, stress and depression,” Dr Delargy said. 

Last year saw the highest number of practitioners presenting to the programme, and we expect presentations to rise due to Covid-19 because health practitioners have never had to work under this kind of strain before.

problems presenting with The problems practitioners presenting to the service faced in 2019. Source: PHMP

“Everyone is working flat out to get through this pandemic, and it is only when the dust settles that people will properly be able to process what they have been through,” she said. 

Non-consultant hospital doctors, consultants and GPs accounted for almost three-quarters of new people coming forward to the service in 2019. 

Anxiety was the most common issue, affecting one-third of all presentations.

Burnout and stress impacted 14% of people and depression affected 13%.  

58 of the new presentations last year were aged between 26 and 49, and 13 were aged 50-64. 

age profile of service users Age profile of people presenting to the service last year. Source: PHMP

Doctors using the service

The report gave a number of examples of practitioners who availed of the service last year. Their names were changed and details were amended to protect their identities. 

Tom, a GP in his 40s, was feeling burned out and overwhelmed due to work, financial and family stress.

He felt depressed, unable to sleep and lost interest in looking after his patients. 

He was advised by the service to take a short break from his work. He attended therapy and within weeks, his mood improved significantly.  

Another doctor who availed of the service, Maria, a non-consultant hospital doctor in her 20s, was overwhelmed and stressed by her workload.

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She was unable to sleep and unable to concentrate on her work. 

After an initial assessment, it was discovered she had an eating disorder as an adolescent which had re-emerged as a result of the stress she was under. 

She engaged in psychotherapy and has made “significant” lifestyle changes. She is practicing mindfulness and has developed healthier coping strategies, the report said.  

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