New York City ER Doctor Working 'Front Lines' of Coronavirus, Dies by Suicide

An emergency room doctor working the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City has died by suicide. Dr. Lorna Breen, 49, "succumbed to self-inflicted injuries" on Sunday, Tyler Hawn, a spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, confirmed in a statement to The New York Times.

"Dr. Breen is a hero who brought the highest ideals of medicine to the challenging front lines of the emergency department," a statement from NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia read. "Our focus today is to provide support to her family, friends and colleagues as they cope with this news during what is already an extraordinarily difficult time."

The medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, Breen had been among the many doctors witnessing first-hand, the full effect of the pandemic in New York City, considered the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Breen herself had contracted the virus, but had recovered and returned to work, though she was later sent home, her family bringing her to Charlottesville, Virginia.

Although she did not have a history of mental health issues, her father, Dr. Philip C. Breen, told the outlet that his daughter had seemed detached recently and had spoken of the horrors she had witnessed at the hospital and had described patients who were dying before they could even be taken out of ambulances.

"She tried to do her job, and it killed her. She was truly in the trenches of the front line," her father said. "Make sure she's praised as a hero, because she was. She's a casualty just as much as anyone else who has died."

A 200-bed hospital in northern Manhattan, NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital at times had as many as 170 patients with the coronavirus. As of April 7, there had been COVID-19 related deaths. Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice chair for quality care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital, said that the pandemic had presented unusual mental health challenges for those working the frontlines.

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Breen's death marks just the latest example of the mental toll the pandemic has taken on medical professionals and first responders. On Friday, 23-year-old John Mondello, who worked for the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, was found dead with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, the New York Police Department confirmed to PEOPLE. Just last month, a 34-year-old nurse in Italy died by suicide after testing positive for the virus and fearing she had spread it to patients.

If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.