Chris Cuomo Stresses the Importance of Taking Mental Health and Depression Seriously Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Chris Cuomo

The journalist spoke with the father of a front line hero who died by suicide and opened up about the mental toll of the pandemic.

While Chris Cuomo may have finally recovered from his lengthy battle with the coronavirus, the CNN newsman is still dedicated to addressing what he feels is the less talked-about aspects of the pandemic -- specifically, the mental and emotional impact of COVID-19.

"I hope by now you are aware that this virus is attacking our body completely. And that includes our minds, our emotions, every bit as it does any other organ and system in the body," Cuomo said on Tuesday's Cuomo Prime Time. "Health care workers, especially the ones on the front lines, they're feeling this more than most. Distress calls are up. We see it in the data. People are being killed from the mental and emotional toll."

Cuomo specifically spoke about Dr. Lorna Breen, an ER doctor in New York City who died by suicide on Sunday after having helped COVID-19 victims on the front lines, and had eventually contracted the illness herself.

"She was well respected and by all accounts she stepped up with the best during the worst of this," Cuomo said. "She even contracted COVID herself. Dealt with it. As soon as she was better, she went back to work. And then after all she did for others, on Sunday she died by suicide."

"Her father says she was killed by the enemy on the front lines, and I'm sad to say, he's right," Cuomo continued, introducing her father, Dr. Philip Breen, who shared memories of his daughter's zest for life and dedication to others.

According to her father, after battling the illness for weeks, both in others and herself, she finally broke, comparing her mental state to a "horse trying to pull a heavy load" until it can no longer carry one. 

"[She] died from trying to help," Dr. Breen said of his daughter.

"I'd be remiss by not pointing out that even as we speak there are thousands of people just like her in the front lines doing physical battle with the enemy and getting no recognition, no reward, no nothing for it," he continued. "So my hat goes off to all these people who are doing their best to do a good job and to take care of their fellow man without questioning what they're doing to themselves."

"There are also too many who suffer in silence about the mental and emotional effects of this virus and other illnesses and we will make sure we talk about it much more than we have already," Cuomo promised in return.

Holding true to that commitment -- to talk about and destigmatize the mental and psychological effects of the virus -- Cuomo encouraged people who were dealing with depression, stress and suicidal thoughts to seek help.

"People are suffering in silence. The doctors, of course, we're not giving enough credit nor support to the people fighting this battle for us most acutely," Cuomo shared. "But I want to remind you, if you're taking a toll because of the virus -- or just the experience we're all living through, it's so traumatic in so many different ways -- the national suicide prevention lifeline is always there. 1-800-273-talk."

To those who may not appreciate or discount the virus' mental impact, Cuomo said, "Don't roll your eyes. It's as real as any manifestation of illness. Mind, body, spirit, it is all vulnerable."

This isn't the first time the journalist has talked about the depression that can result from the coronavirus. Earier this month, as he was still suffering some painful symptoms of COVID-19, Cuomo admitted that he felt "a little depressed" by the persistence of the disease and its potential lethality.

"[It's] depressing. It's hard to have a fever for 20 hours a day," Cuomo said to fellow CNN anchor Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "It just wears you down emotionally."

"When you have a fever over a number of days, it affects you, not just physically. It affects you psychologically and emotionally, okay?" Cuomo said. "You're going to have some weird thoughts, all right? Not necessarily suicidal ideations -- of course you've got to be in contact with your doctor about anything like that -- but just be mindful that there is a good chance that you're being lousy to the people who are being best to you."

Cuomo added that he'd been "trying to stay keenly aware" of his own behavior while sick.

"I feel my edge, I feel my frustration," he admitted. "The people around you are so nervous, they don't want to get sick, they don't like that you're sick, they don't like that they can't get you better. Don't play into that by making it worse. Be your best. I know it's hard. Believe me, I get that it's hard."

For more on the CNN journalist's battle with COVID-19, and the recent news that he's finally tested negative for the virus, see the video below.