From The Pathologist

In the midst of a pandemic, it’s not just physical health that matters

Michael Schubert | 05/06/2020 | Opinion

Here in the UK, a mini-tradition has formed. At eight o’clock every Thursday night, people open their doors and windows, look out of their homes, and applaud the healthcare workers who are keeping our country running. Media coverage focuses on doctors and nurses on the front lines (and, in a rare move, occasionally mentions those involved in laboratory testing). On social media and in local hubs, the conversation expands to include other essential workers; for instance, the people who ensure that hospitals and laboratories are kept clean, or those who answer the COVID-19 telephone hotlines.

Cheery news abounds: the 100-year-old man who has raised £32 million for the National Health Service; the children setting up “take what you will” stands outside their homes; the people sewing face masks for bus drivers, retail workers, and other vital (and often overlooked) professions. But on social media, I see a different story. Every day, another pathologist or laboratory medicine professional on Twitter posts that they’re taking a break for their mental health. Every day, another voice on Facebook or YouTube or Instagram goes silent to focus inward, rather than deal with the seemingly endless flow of (not always good, often politically motivated) news.

In the midst of one health crisis, are we missing another?

COVID-19 may be grabbing the spotlight at the moment, but it is perhaps more important than ever to be aware of the emotional and psychological effects this pandemic is having – not just on the doctors and nurses patrolling the intensive care wards, but also everyone else in the chain, from the driver who transports the swabs to the pathologist who writes the reports. In the latest installment of our online-only “Pandemic Perspectives,” Marisa Saint Martin shares her own approach to maintaining balance and wellness in the midst of a storm. Whether you prefer mindfulness, a workout, a social media break, or something else entirely, remember to pause and take a moment for your own health. Fit your oxygen mask first – before helping anyone else with theirs.