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To COVID-19 Frontline Workers, From a Therapist Who Is Ready to Support You

Last week, a top ER doctor at a Manhattan hospital, Dr. Lorna M. Breen, died by suicide. Dr. Breen had been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and treated many patients at the Manhattan hospital. Dr. Breen had also contracted and recovered from the virus herself. Dr. Breen’s suicide was an unfortunate wake-up call, particularly for mental health professionals. It begs the question — what are we doing, and what do we plan to do, to take care of the mental health of our frontline and essential workers?

As a rising mental health professional, I began to think about the impending mental health crisis we have on our hands. From a therapist to the heroic frontline workers — these words are for you.

Dear essential workers, healthcare professionals and everyone on the front lines,

Thank you. I see the incredible work you are doing night and day, hour after hour. I cannot even begin to imagine the toll it is taking on you not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. I see you putting others’ lives before your own. I see you isolating yourselves from your families and loved ones to protect them. I see you being a shining light for patients in some of their darkest moments. I see you witnessing sickness and death around every corner. I see you, I hear you and I am here for you.

I am a mental health professional. And I want you to know that when this is all over, I will still be here for you. We will get through everything you are feeling, everything you are thinking and everything you have experienced, together. It’ll be us against the world. And while I am so, so sorry you have had to go through all of this, I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait to heal together and create a new future together. I can’t wait to help you find the light at the end of the tunnel.

While your time on the front lines has been going on for some time, mine is just beginning. For some of my colleagues and supervisors, it has already begun. I am standing, ready and at attention, to be called into duty. I am ready to do this, with you. We will overcome it, together.

Please take care of yourself as best as you can for now. You know how on airplanes, they say to make sure you put on your own oxygen mask before helping others? Put on your own mask first. No, not just the literal protective masks you courageously wear every day. Put on your own mental health mask first. I know this is easier said than done. I know you don’t get to choose which devastation you see. You have to run straight into the chaos, no matter what. For that, I am forever grateful.

“Thank you” does not even begin to encapsulate what I want to say to you right now.  But I hope it is enough to start. We will be coming out on the other side of this, together, soon.

Yours truly,

A mental health professional

Getty image via Praneat