NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Many experts believe another crisis is brewing when it comes to mental health during this pandemic.

Now help is available to process the grief.

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CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas introduces us to a frontline worker who lost two family members while battling COVID himself.

“The process today was a little tough. Early in the morning I had an emotional break down a little bit,” said Carlos Rivera.

Rivera works in environmental services at Cohen Children’s Medical Center on Long Island.


On April 14, 2020, his father died of COVID. His grandmother died 11 days earlier, and he couldn’t attend the funerals because he too was battling the virus.

“In the 47 that I’ve been on this earth, it was the toughest sickness I ever had to endure. On the seventh day of quarantine I thought I was going to die,” he said.

Despair is all too familiar to medical professionals, who balanced the stress at work, and also at home. North Shore University ICU nurse Elyse Isopo documented some of her hardest days.

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“I needed to take a deep breath and a moment to myself, because a patient just passed away,” she said in one post in April of last year.

Experts have compared the impact of the collective trauma on the front line to war. That’s why Northwell Health created a new center to help staff and their families process their grief.

“Just like our veterans receive additional specialized supports to acknowledge their sacrifice, so too our healthcare workers deserve the same,” said Dr. Mayer Bellehsen, director of the Center for Traumatic Stress, Resilience and Recovery.

The CTSRR provides peer support programs along with therapy. It will also research the long term impact of traumatic stress from the pandemic.

“Seeing a lot more patients suffering from depression. And the fallout of having to deal with this past year of losing loved ones this center is vital for that,” said Dr. Fred Davis, associate chair of the emergency department at LIJ.

Now the healers need to be the patients.

“I can pinpoint in my head at least five or six colleagues change over the last year that are different people than they used to be, that 100% need this program,” Isopo said.

Northwell is  trying to create a culture where it’s OK to ask for help.

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For now, the center only treats staff members and their families, but expects to expand to the general public in the coming months.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas