May 6, 2021 ● 3.5 min read
By Shivam Bhargava and Emily Bradfield
Last Monday, April 26th we honored the 1 year anniversary of the tragic passing of a very special individual, Dr. Lorna Breen. Dr. Breen was not only the emergency room director at New York Presbyterian’s Allen Hospital, but also a mother, a daughter, and a friend. She touched so many lives and leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten. Her death brings awareness to topics that, given the coronavirus crisis, seem to be more relevant than ever. The Heroes Health team sat down with representatives from the Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation to hear more about how they work to improve physicians’ well-being, burnout, and the importance of advocacy when it comes to mental health.
The Work of the Lorna Breen Foundation
The Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, founded in her honor after her passing, seeks to reduce burnout of healthcare professionals and safeguard their well-being and job satisfaction. According to the Foundation, their vision is to reach a point where obtaining mental health support services is “universally viewed as a strength and job requisite for healthcare professionals”. They attempt to meet these goals by advising the healthcare industry on well-being initiatives that provide holistic mental health supports, build awareness surrounding mental health to reduce stigma, and fund research/programs that aim to reduce health care professional burnout. The Foundation emphasized that not only is their work important in the short term, but that it will continue to remain relevant even after the pandemic subsides: “When the coronavirus crisis dissipates and life goes back to some pretense of ‘normal,’ the mental health of our nation’s health care workers will be most vulnerable. Science shows us that with mental health concerns like burnout, fatigue, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, when you remove the stressor, the event’s experience becomes amplified. This is when our health care heroes will need help the most.”
Beyond advising the healthcare industry and funding research and programs, the Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation also seeks to advocate for the mental health of healthcare workers through legislation. The Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act aims to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, and mental and behavioral health conditions among health care professionals. An important aspect of this piece of legislation is that it 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. This piece of legislation not only addresses the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also finally addresses a long-standing problem that has often been ignored by the professional world. Physicians have the highest death rate by suicide of any profession in the country, and as many as 45-55 percent of health care workers have suffered from burnout. The Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation hopes to reduce rates of burnout by breaking down the stigma of healthcare workers having trouble asking for help in the workplace.
Looking Towards the Future
The Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation has recently launched their next phase of work called the “ALL IN: WellBeing First for Healthcare,” which is a call to action for healthcare organizations to commit to the creation and cultivation of workplace cultures that prioritize health worker well-being. Organizations that join the campaign will publicly announce their leadership’s commitment to the well-being of their workforce. ALL IN will provide a plan for institutions to invest in and cultivate environments where their workforce feels valued and supported when it comes to their mental health. As vaccinations roll out and our country starts to see the light at the end of the tunnel, Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation will continue to advocate for the well-being of healthcare workers.
What can you do?
As an organization that is focused on providing mental health resources for health care workers, Heroes Health would like to acknowledge the advocacy that the Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation has done over the last year. Lorna Breen was an incredible individual whose life was taken much too early. By continuing to look out for the well-being of healthcare workers, both Heroes Health and the Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation hope to continue to build awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. If you are interested in supporting their mission, Lorna Been Heroes Foundation has started a fundraising campaign called “Lead the Way for Lorna.” You can participate by visiting drlornabreen.org, or texting “LornaBreen” to 44321 to donate. Additionally, if you are a healthcare worker, check out our resources and consider using the Heroes Health app as part of your mental health plan.