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An emergency doctor from New York died of suicide after she struggled to cope at work during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, her family told The New York Times.
Dr. Lorna Breen was working as medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Upper Manhattan, which was in an area especially hard hit by the coronavirus.
The doctor had to self-quarantine after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and felt guilty that she couldn't help her colleagues and patients.
After struggling to keep up with grueling 15-hour work shifts after she recovered, Breen was sent to a psychiatric ward and treated for exhaustion. She took her own life on April 26 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Medical workers who treated COVID-19 patients have experienced higher rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, according to multiple studies.
An ER doctor from New York was driven to suicide after struggling to cope with the pressures of work during the height coronavirus outbreak, according to her family.
Dr. Lorna Breen was the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Upper Manhattan, located in a low-income community that was particularly hard hit by COVID-19.
In a New York Times article, Breen's family and friends speak out about how they believe the outbreak pushed the 49-year-old doctor to the brink as she worked 15-hour shifts, tried to make up for severe staff shortages, and had to find space to treat an influx of patients. At one point, Breen even found an unattended dead man in the emergency room.
"Hardest time of my life," she texted a friend at the time. "Am trying to focus."
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Her death came weeks after the doctor was diagnosed with COVID-19 herself. After quarantining at home, Breen returned to work immediately, but found that she couldn't keep up with the 12-hour shift and felt increasingly exhausted.
In her last conversation with friend Anna Ochoa, the doctor told her that she also felt guilty about not helping.
"I couldn't help anyone. I couldn't do anything. I just wanted to help people, and I couldn't do anything," Ochoa said Breen told her.
Colleagues told The Times that they had never seen the doctor — who was known to be calm and confident — in such a state. "She always had this glimmer in the eye that was so welcoming and always had so much energy and enthusiasm," Dr. Angela Mills, her supervisor, said. "And that was missing."
After speaking to increasingly worried friends and family, Breen decided to go home to Charlottesville, Virginia, and checked in to the University of Virginia Medical Center psychiatric ward. Her sister says she was "nearly catatonic" and "unable to answer simple questions."
A few days after being released from the ward, Breen killed herself on April 26.
"She went down in the trenches and was killed by the enemy on the front line," Philip Breen, her father, said, according to CNN. "She loved New York and wouldn't hear about living anywhere else. She loved her coworkers and did what she could for them."
The doctor's family said Breens had no history of mental illness.
According to multiple studies in China, Canada, and Italy, medical workers who treated COVID-19 patients have experienced higher rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, the Times reported.
New York was the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year. At the time of writing, it has more than 32,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to Worldometer.
Read the original article on Insider