NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a mental and emotional toll on everyone, including healthcare workers.

A new facility at Ascension St. Thomas is helping healthcare workers and community members with their mental health.

“As a physician, it’s been stressful,” said Dr. Joseph Sharpe, chief medical officer of Ascension St. Thomas’ Behavioral Health Hospital. “It’s been at times scary and unpredictable. As more answers are coming, we’re getting used to a little bit of these extraordinary times and how to handle these.”

Dr. Jeneen Carman, chief nursing officer at Ascension St. Thomas Behavioral Health Hospital, says the most difficult part was keeping her workforce calm throughout the pandemic.

She says the long-term mental effects on healthcare workers isn’t fully known yet.

Both doctors said the pandemic made mental illness more prevalent.

“There was a study comparison from 2017 to 2021 in regard to incidents of depression, and the incidents of depression has tripled just in that timeframe — and that is directly attributed to COVID-19,” Dr. Sharpe said.   

These health experts say St. Thomas’ new Behavioral Health Hospital provides much needed services to the community and healthcare workers — one of those being inpatient psychiatric services.

“Everybody is experiencing the same things. Right now, in this hospital we have just the regular community and we have people that are members of the healthcare community,” Dr. Sharpe said.

He says chronic stress brought on by the pandemic could lead to psychiatric and neurologic issues.

“Whether that is fatigue, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress issues — [we need] to provide a safe and secure environment for these patients having these difficulties because the numbers are going through the roof regarding psychiatric diagnosis.”

To learn more about the work being done at St. Thomas Behavioral Hospital click here.

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