‘It broke her’: New York ER doctor dies by suicide after front-line fight against COVID-19

A doctor who fought against the COVID-19 outbreak in New York and had previously been diagnosed with the virus has tragically taken her own life, according to NBC News.

Those closest to Dr. Lorna Breen say the emergency-room doctor was overwhelmed with despair after her experiences at the epicenter of the pandemic.

With family in Virginia when she died

Breen, 49, worked at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in Manhattan. She was reportedly on leave after testing positive for the coronavirus and was spending time with family in Charlottesville, Virginia, when she died.

She was described as an outgoing Christian with a caring heart, The New York Times reported. Although she had no documented mental health problems in the past, her experience responding to the virus changed her, relatives say.

When relatives took her back to Charlottesville after she was denied a request to continue working, she reportedly seemed depressed. Her father said she told him about the grim scenes she witnessed while working at the hospital.

“She tried to do her job, and it killed her,” Dr. Phillip Breen, told the Times. “She was truly in the trenches of the front line.”

Charlottesville police confirmed the woman died from self-inflicted injuries. In a statement confirming her death, Breen’s employer described her as “a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department.”

Friends, colleagues honor her service

The hospital where Breen worked has 200 beds, and some 59 people had died there as of April 7, the Times said. Friends and colleagues said they were shaken by the loss.

One friend told the New York Post that Breen fretted over being unable to return to work, saying the situation “broke her.” Another friend, Dr. Rich Weiss, described her on Facebook as “a true friend and a compassionate warrior.”

Symptoms of a deeper problem

There have been scattered reports of healthcare workers committing suicide during the pandemic. A 23-year-old EMT worker in the Bronx, John Mondello, killed himself last week, the Post reported.

Such tragedies come amid concerns about an epidemic of loneliness and mental health problems triggered by the pandemic and the associated lockdowns. Thousands of Americans have lost loved ones, bereaved in isolation and without ceremony, while millions of Americans have had their financial situations violently disrupted by measures taken to fight the pandemic.

This is all a reminder that the wounds inflicted by the virus are not just physical, but psychological as well — especially for those at the center of it all.

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