Local health care workers address pandemic’s impact on their mental health


GREENSBORO, N.C. — Every day, FOX8 tells you about the COVID-19 cases in the state of North Carolina and how they’re impacting the health care system. But what about the well-being of those on the front lines? Those who haven’t gotten a break because of the steady flow of cases across the Triad?

There’s an emergency that lies within hospital walls that’s not really talked about.

“The workload is so much that you honestly don’t even have time to think about your mental health at that point because you’re focusing your 100 percent on your patient,” said Jonathan Vargas, RN.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve heard about hospitals being overrun, patient beds scarce and a lack of PPE.

“I think we’re still suffering from PTSD from back when it got really bad,” said Guillermo Vargas, RN.

Guillermo, his brother Jonathan Vargas and Jonathan’s wife, Leah Dudley, all work at the same hospital in a ICU in Winston-Salem.

“It’s very hard to see the patients we’ve gotten to know over weeks or even days, put so much time into it, maybe see them pass away, and have to interact with their families,” Dudley said.

When they’re so worried about patients it brings about the question who is worried about their mental health?

“We try and make time to do something for ourselves, but it’s hard because we’re trying our best to stay safe and not go out. So, for months we literally just go to work and come home,” Jonathan said.

For Guillermo, it’s the reopening of gyms that’s helped him through the tough days. His brother, Jonathan said their hospital in Winston-Salem has provided free counseling for workers, but it’s about breaking the stigma around getting help.

Stephanie Rhodes, at Mental Health Greensboro, said there are some signs to look for when co-workers or loved ones are reaching their wit’s end.

“If it’s like a cluster of events over time, you may want to open up that conversation and be like, I’m a safe person for you to talk to,” Rhodes said. “What do I need to help you with while you are getting stronger? While you are resting and just opening up that conversation.”

The Vargas brothers and Rhodes said they believe there’s even a stigma surrounding mental health in the health care field.

“Sometimes we feel like we have to be stronger and we can’t talk about, but when we talk about it, it allows other people to say, ‘you know what? Me too,’” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said it’s about taking it one day at a time.

“I think all of us are looking at the COVID as a pandemic, but looking at COVID each day like the weather, and arming ourselves for that one day,” Rhodes said.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, contact the Mobile Crisis Management Crisis Line at 1-877-626-1772.

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