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Local ICU nurse hopes report on Filipino-Americans and pandemic-related mental health issues brings change

Ed Naval San Diego ICU Nurse.jpg
Roland Lizarondo
Ed Naval, an ICU nurse from San Diego shares his experience working during the pandemic and the effects it's had on the mental health of Filipino Americans.

San Diegan Ed Naval has been a nurse for years 13 years, six in the ICU. He's a proud Filipino-American who comes from a long line of healthcare workers.

"Helping and healing the sick was something that I’ve always wanted to do. It was something that my mom did ,my mother in law did, it’s kind of like ingrained in my genes," said Naval.

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But during the pandemic, his passion to serve others meant being exposed and possibly exposing his family to a virus that could kill.

"We were scared, I was scared. I literally told my family, ‘you know what I might not be able to come back healthy.' We were sleeping in separate rooms. I slept in the garage for a month not knowing what would happen. My kids were... afraid that dad might not come back or dad might die," he said as he held back tears.

A study done by the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies finds those feelings are not uncommon and have led to anxiety and depression for one in four Filipino Americans during the pandemic. That’s because 18 percent of nurses in California are Filipino, and one in three are front line workers.

Dr. Robyn Rodriguez ,the director of the Bulosan Center, said their study went beyond statistics. "We knew that wasn’t going to be able to capture the story and the real human face of the impact of this pandemic," Rodriguez said. "So that’s why we complemented the survey with these focus groups sessions of what we call talk story or in Filipino kwentuhan sessions and they’re really really heart wrenching."

Rodriguez said the story of one young woman living in a multi generational household, something not uncommon in Filipino families, has stayed with her. She quoted the young woman as saying, "'For our family it’s kind of like a wolf is at the door.' I mean that is just striking to say 'the wolf is at the door,' the sense of danger, and that really creating all sorts of anxiety and depression."

Naval said faith and family have helped him cope, but realizes many don't have support systems or resources he does.

Filipino-American ICU nurse hopes study on pandemic related mental health issues brings change

Rodriguez and Naval hope the report from the Bulosan Center leads to mental health resources that are culturally relevant for Filipino-American who are disproportionately risking their lives for a living.

"It took its toll and that’s part of the reason a lot of nurses did suffer from general anxiety and PTSD, so the biggest challenge is what are we going to do about it?" said Naval.