• Kelly O'Donnell

Why COVID-19 May Trigger PTSD for Frontline Responders

St. Louis Therapy for Healthcare Staff

The worldwide praise for healthcare workers comes in all forms: heartfelt, homemade posters, parades of appreciative police cars and delivered bakery sweets from thankful communities. Amidst all of this gratitude for their bravery, our front-line heroes are vulnerable and hurting, badly. I recently read a New York Times article entitled, ‘I Can’t Turn My Brain Off’: PTSD and Burnout Threaten Medical Workers.

The article shines a real, unfiltered light into the heaviness felt in hospital hallways during COVID-19 and its impact on our healthcare workers. “As the pandemic intensity seems to fade, so does the adrenaline. What’s left are the emotions of dealing with the trauma and stress of the many patients we cared for,” said Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the chairman of the emergency department at St. Joseph’s Health in Paterson, N.J. “There is a wave of depression, letdown, true PTSD and a feeling of not caring anymore that is coming.” St. Louis first responders, whether EMTs, paramedics, medical staff, firefighters or police officers, are putting up a tremendous fight during this crisis. Although their external battle against COVID-19 is broadcast 24/7, their internal battles of anxiety and depression receive significantly less coverage. To all of our St. Louis frontline employees: you are not alone. It can be difficult to reach out for help when your profession depends on characteristics like strenghth, stoicism, and level-headedness. But, reaching out for help does not make you weak, it makes you smart and responsible. We area all human, no matter what our profession. This means we only have so much capacity to hold traumatic experience and exposure to human suffering. It is important to have a self-care routine in place, such as regular therapy appointments to “empty our buckets”, so we can continue doing our jobs effectively and with compassion. Kelly O’Donnell Counseling’s approach to EMDR therapy combats post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to provide healing specifically for St. Louis first responders. PTSD is a mental health condition caused by witnessing or experiencing an awful, traumatic event. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a physiological response to trauma. The brain does not correctly store the recollection. All of the thoughts and body reactions are placed in an unresolved memory bank. During EMDR Therapy we confront these memories together and use pragmatic tools to keep the mind and body healthy.