Calls are being made for doctors to seek help if they are feeling pressured and burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This follows the death of medical intern Dr Jeron Kanhai who reported ingested a dose of hallucinogenic drugs, alcohol and marijuana and then jumped off a building at Champ Fleurs on Sunday.
Kanhai, 24, of St Joseph Village, San Fernando worked at the San Fernando General Hospital and his death has left his colleagues in shock and grief.
A medical intern who requested anonymity described him as a hardworking, committed doctor who was always pleasant to be around.
Kanhai worked in the department of internal medicine.
During an interview with Guardian Media, consultant physician at the San Fernando General Hospital, Dr Joel Teelucksingh said while he did not know Kanhai personally, he was aware that many people in the medical fraternity were facing additional stress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created a milieu of physical, psychological and socioeconomic distress amongst health care workers,” Teelucksingh said.
Saying medical personnel should never be afraid to seek help, Teelucksingh added: “Career-associated stressors in a demanding environment with high expectations increase the risk of physician anxiety, depression, substance misuse and suicide.”
He noted that the stress begins before the Secondary Entrance Assessment examinations and continues to be “the new normal” for many people.
Asked if there could be a trend by doctors to use drugs as stimulants to cope with their increased workload especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Teelucksingh said: “Alcohol and recreational drugs like marijuana are social lubricants but may reveal underlying mental health issues especially in younger persons.”
He said the “stigma attached to psychiatric illness and fear of job safety often prevents doctors from seeking help.”
Teelucksingh said while he did not know the circumstances behind Kanhai’s death, it was no secret that many people in the medical fraternity worldwide were facing additional stress.
“Colleagues and senior members of the fraternity must recognise warning signs as the public may also be put at risk,” Teelucksingh added.
“This ‘hidden pandemic’ is exacerbated by the fact that males are taught to not show any perceived ‘weaknesses’ and keep toxic emotions within.
“This tragic case seems unrelated but the COVID-19 pandemic has created physical, psychological and socioeconomic distress amongst health care workers,” he added.
He noted that on April 26, a frontline doctor in New York committed suicide.
“Many people struggle with the moral injury of life and death decisions, fear of inadequate Personal Protective Equipment, legal liability concerns, student loans and isolation from loved ones,” he added.
He urged doctors and nurses to get the help they need.
Teelucksingh also expressed condolences to the family on behalf of everyone in the medical fraternity.
A close relative of Kanhai said they were having a difficult time coming to terms with his death.
Police said around 2 am, Kanhai’s colleague Dr Aaron Ali reported they were at his 22 Hilltop Drive, Champ Fleurs apartment with another friend Stacey Gobin where they reportedly consumed a cocktail drink containing alcohol and LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).
They were also smoking marijuana, police alleged.
LSD is a hallucinogenic drug which triggers altered thoughts and feelings.
Police said Kanhai became erratic, ran to the balcony and jumped to his death.
The police were called in and when officers arrived, they found him on the ground barely conscious with blood oozing from his nose. He was still breathing.
He was taken to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope where he died while receiving medical treatment.
This is not the first report of doctors consuming marijuana. Earlier this year, Dr Rudradeva Sharma and his colleague reportedly went to purchase marijuana and were kidnapped by a group of men.
Sharma died when his vehicle somersaulted several times on the highway before crashing into the median.