COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s life, both mentally and physically. Due to the tireless hours spent in the houses with little to no connection to the outside world, people are facing many psychological problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, anger, and fear. While many of the common people have outlets such as cooking, drawing, and spending time with family, for these emotions, healthcare workers, police, and government workers are the ones that are most affected. Recently a study put light on the topic of the high psychological impact on ophthalmologists due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healthcare professionals face social discrimination, distance from family due to fear of infection, therefore alone and without support, life in danger due to a shortage of PPE all over the world. Among these healthcare professionals, ophthalmologists are troubled as they are at an increased risk of infection. This is because they are in close contact with the patient’s eyes and nose, which could easily transmit the virus. The study conducted to determine the condition of the mental health of the ophthalmologists was Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) used as a self-report measure to assess depression severity in ophthalmologists over the previous two weeks.
The survey included 2,355 ophthalmologists and in-training ophthalmologists in the 25 to 82 year age range. Results showed that 765 (32.6%) had some degree of depression, 504 (21.4%) had mild, 163 (6.9%) moderate, and 101 (4.3%) severe depression, respectively. For younger ophthalmologists, depression was slightly higher. This was also higher among non-practitioner ophthalmologists, as well as those who were deeply concerned about their schooling or professional development, and those with trouble meeting living expenses.
Ophthalmologists had suicidal / self-harm ideations over the past two weeks during more than half of the time, according to the survey study 75 (3.2 percent). This was much higher than the 10 percent prevalence recorded by the general population in India for specific mental disorders. High depression may be due to a generalized environment of instability among ophthalmologists, caused by training and job protection limitations; fear factor as Covid-19 may cause severe symptoms in a segment of infected individuals; restricted awareness and availability of personal protective equipment ( PPE); A lack of adequate medical services; and a shortage of ventilators and beds for intensive care units in the event of anyone contracting the illness.
This is normal for health care workers to be stigmatized during an outbreak. Psychologists and psychologists provide customized mental health services, particularly for those with moderate/severe depression and/or ideations of suicidal / self-harm. This study indicates that psychological impact on ophthalmologists happens due to multiple factors, even health workers who are not at the forefront of Covid-19 care and who are less at risk of being affected suffer mental health consequences.