Lorna, 49, took her own life after experiencing the mass death of COVID-19 patients at the New York City hospital where she worked. She then contracted the virus herself. According to her sister, Jennifer Feist, Lorna’s mental health was severely affected by the virus, but she was fearful about getting help “because it could have been devastating to her career.”
Healthcare workers often suffer in silence due to a culture that stigmatizes mental health treatment. Some common fears include possibly losing one’s license or credentials, being judged as “weak” by peers or having to pay increased malpractice insurance rates.
In a recent TODAY Show interview, Jennifer said, “It was the combination of COVID and the culture in medicine that killed my sister…I believe that this could have been avoided."
After Lorna’s suicide, Jennifer and her husband Corey Feist formed the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, dedicated to reducing the stigma of healthcare professionals seeking help for mental health issues.
Jennifer and Corey also worked with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) to create the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which Kaine first introduced in 2020 and reintroduced last month. The legislation:
- Establishes grants for training health profession students, residents, or health care professionals in evidence-informed strategies to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders.
- Seeks to identify and disseminate evidence-informed best practices for reducing and preventing suicide and burnout among health care professionals, training health care professionals in appropriate strategies and promoting their mental and behavioral health and job satisfaction.
- Establishes a national evidence-based education and awareness campaign targeting health care professionals to encourage them to seek support and treatment for mental and behavioral health concerns.
- Establishes grants for employee education, peer-support programming, and mental and behavioral health treatment; health care providers in current or former COVID-19 hotspots will be prioritized.
- Establishes a comprehensive study on health care professional mental and behavioral health and burnout, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on such professionals’ health.
The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act is a much-needed, positive step toward ending the suffer-in-silence mentality among healthcare workers.
If you are at risk of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255. If you need support to improve your mental health, contact Travco Behavioral Health today for professional, caring and confidential treatment.