American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes


Your Well-Being Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic

The sudden death by suicide of Lorna M. Breen, MD, Medical Director of the Emergency Department, New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, highlights the unprecedented and overwhelming mental health and well-being challenges that face surgeons, physicians, and health care providers.

No historical narrative or intellectual awareness could prepare surgeons, physicians, and other health care personnel for their experiences treating patients in this pandemic. Because COVID-19 is a novel virus, the absence of evidence-based protocols, treatments, vaccines, and best practices affects health care personnel at virtually all levels, including frontline caregivers as well as leadership and administration. The resulting emotional burnout and physical exhaustion can lead to mental health concerns and suicide ideation.


According to Gunnell et al, suicide is likely to become a more pressing concern as the pandemic spreads and has long-term effects. Mental and well-being support is available through several sources:
Suicide Prevention Hotline: Supporting your emotional well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak—Resources provided by Suicide Prevention Lifeline with a COVID-19 focus. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 offering free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for colleagues and family members, and best practices for professionals: 1-800-273-8255.

Disaster Distress Hotline: The Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990, is a 24-hour, 365-days-a-year, national hotline dedicated to providing immediate crisis counseling for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents in the U.S.

National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI): The NAMI resource booklet covers a variety of topics including managing anxiety, stress related to business concerns, health care issues, substance abuse disorders, and more. The NAMI also offers phone and online support. The NAMI HelpLine is open 10:00 am–6:00 pm Eastern, at 1-800-950-6264. Support is also available by e-mail at, or by texting "NAMI" to 74141.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: Support is available 24 hours/seven days a week. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for teletypewriter. If you are unable to speak safely, log on to or text LOVEIS to 22522. Click here for an interactive guide to safety planning.

National Parent Helpline: Available Monday through Friday, 12:00 noon–7:00 pm Central, 1-855-427-2736.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline: Available 24 hours/seven days a week and is confidential and free, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or via chat.

The American College of Surgeons remains committed to providing tools and resources to support you throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. One resource we offer is the ACS Surgeon Well-Being Index. This video guide is a useful resource for understanding how to use the Well-Being Index. To start using the tool, Associate Fellows and Fellows can use the code fellow20 and resident surgeons can use the code resident20. As always, the Well-Being Index is 100 percent anonymous—your information and score is private and your individual score will not be shared with anyone, including the ACS. Access for International members is not currently available.

Aging Surgeon Struggles with Conflicting Responsibilities during COVID-19

A paper published in Annals of Surgery examines the conflicting obligations of an aging surgeon as he tries to decide whether to opt out of the care of COVID-19 patients. These obligations include duty to care, duty to society, duty to family, duty to co-workers, and duty to self.

Honor Dr. Breen’s Legacy and Donate to Mental Health Support

The Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Fund has been established to provide mental health support to health care providers. Information on donating is now available online, and you can contribute directly to this cause.