A care and support service for health professionals who have mental-health issues, such as stress and anxiety, is to expand its offering in advance of the expected surge in Covid-19 cases and the resultant pressure it puts on frontline medics.
The Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PMPH) had its busiest year ever in 2019, since its launch in late 2015.
Its clinical lead said she is concerned about a likely increase in post-traumatic stress disorder among medics, once the current crisis has eased.
Dr Íde DeLargy, PMPH clinical lead, said, as yet, there has been no surge in people coming to them for assistance, but some people who had been under strain prior to the outbreak had since come to the service.
“We have had a number of people contact us who may have had issues prior to the Covid, but the Covid has pushed them over the edge,” Dr DeLargy said.
While last year’s figures are being finalised, she said the PMPH received 110 contacts, its highest annual figure, but with the Covid-19 crisis, more are expected to seek help in 2020.
The free service is confidential and normally face-to-face, but with social-distancing in place, Dr Delargy said that alternative methods would be employed over the next week to ensure that anyone who needs help receives it, via online resources that enable people — anonymously — to engage in one-to-one or group-therapy sessions.
“We had a plan that we were going to go live with that in the next week,” she said, stating that the service would allow access to counsellors, psychologists, therapists, and psychologists.
“If an individual within that was struggling more, we have safety nets within that forum to say, ‘this person needs additional supports, mental health or psychiatric’,” Dr DeLargy said.
The programme is typically used by doctors, dentists, and pharmacists, who, Dr DeLargy said, “tend to be the stoics.”
Many cases typically are self-referrals.
She also said she was “concerned” regarding the possibility of people presenting with PTSD at a later stage.
On March 16, the PMPH, through Dr DeLargy and Dr Justin Brophy, consultant psychiatrist with the PMPH, had outlined how it would be operating in what was an “unprecedented time for Irish doctors, dentists, and pharmacists.”
“The demands of the current coronavirus crisis may leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
"While this can happen to all of us from time to time, regardless of speciality or job, some colleagues will be under great duress at present.
“Look after yourselves, during these extraordinary times,” Dr DeLargy said.