Many first responders, from paramedics to police, facing emotional toll of pandemic

Nationwide, the coronavirus has killed over 128,000 people in the U.S.Now, our National Investigative Unit has learned some of those never infected with COVID-19 are struggling, too — our first responders.Chief National Investigative Correspondent Mark Albert shows us how.Lt. Andrew Brock, a New York City Fire Department paramedic, says the last four months have been rough.”You can’t even give somebody a hug,” Brock says. “You can’t even touch somebody on the shoulder and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘Did I do enough?’ ‘Did I do the right thing?’ ‘Did I get here fast enough?’ So emotionally, it’s taken a toll. It’s taking a tremendous toll emotionally on my guys.”During the pandemic in Italy, a study found nearly half of health care workers reported post-traumatic stress symptoms.In China, more than a third said they had insomnia.Here in the U.S., Dr. Kelly Tripp launched a comfort team to talk to struggling workers at Sojourn at Seneca Senior Behavioral Health Hospital in Ohio.”Nurses are notorious for not asking for help,” Tripp said. “And so sometimes the best we can do is to offer that help and encourage them to take it.”Dr. Janne Gaub at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is leading a nationwide focus group of police officers who have been on calls during the COVID-19 crisis.”Not being able to go home. Right. Or … going home and having to stay in the basement or sleep in the car because they don’t want to contaminate their family members,” Gaub said. “So that kind of takes a toll after a while. Some of them got frustrated that they couldn’t do their job as they normally did.”Michael Glenn, a paramedic with the New York City Fire Department, did just that.He stayed away from home for nearly four weeks to protect his wife and seven kids.”If we were all to just pack it in and say we quit, then that would be disastrous,” Glenn said. “That’s just not not a realistic outcome.”And the stress may be getting worse.Gaub said that many of the officers in her focus groups are worried that as tax revenue shrinks, local governments will make cuts, including layoffs.The National Institute of Mental Health has a toll-free hotline for people who need help. It’s 866-615-6464. This mental health website also has a list of other resources, too.Mark Albert is the chief national investigative correspondent for the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit, based in Washington D.C. April Chunko and Samone Blair contributed to this report. Know of coronavirus-related waste, fraud, or abuse? Have a confidential tip? Send information and documents to the National Investigative Unit at investigate@hearst.com.

Nationwide, the coronavirus has killed over 128,000 people in the U.S.

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Now, our National Investigative Unit has learned some of those never infected with COVID-19 are struggling, too — our first responders.

Chief National Investigative Correspondent Mark Albert shows us how.

Lt. Andrew Brock, a New York City Fire Department paramedic, says the last four months have been rough.

“You can’t even give somebody a hug,” Brock says. “You can’t even touch somebody on the shoulder and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘Did I do enough?’ ‘Did I do the right thing?’ ‘Did I get here fast enough?’ So emotionally, it’s taken a toll. It’s taking a tremendous toll emotionally on my guys.”

During the pandemic in Italy, a study found nearly half of health care workers reported post-traumatic stress symptoms.

In China, more than a third said they had insomnia.

Here in the U.S., Dr. Kelly Tripp launched a comfort team to talk to struggling workers at Sojourn at Seneca Senior Behavioral Health Hospital in Ohio.

“Nurses are notorious for not asking for help,” Tripp said. “And so sometimes the best we can do is to offer that help and encourage them to take it.”

Dr. Janne Gaub at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is leading a nationwide focus group of police officers who have been on calls during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Not being able to go home. Right. Or … going home and having to stay in the basement or sleep in the car because they don’t want to contaminate their family members,” Gaub said. “So that kind of takes a toll after a while. Some of them got frustrated that they couldn’t do their job as they normally did.”

Michael Glenn, a paramedic with the New York City Fire Department, did just that.

He stayed away from home for nearly four weeks to protect his wife and seven kids.

“If we were all to just pack it in and say we quit, then that would be disastrous,” Glenn said. “That’s just not not a realistic outcome.”

And the stress may be getting worse.

Gaub said that many of the officers in her focus groups are worried that as tax revenue shrinks, local governments will make cuts, including layoffs.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a toll-free hotline for people who need help. It’s 866-615-6464. This mental health website also has a list of other resources, too.


Mark Albert is the chief national investigative correspondent for the Hearst Television National Investigative Unit, based in Washington D.C. April Chunko and Samone Blair contributed to this report.

Know of coronavirus-related waste, fraud, or abuse? Have a confidential tip? Send information and documents to the National Investigative Unit at investigate@hearst.com.

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