Life in Lockdown: NHS Staff and Possible PTSD After COVID-19

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and here at Thrive we’re sharing our “Life in Lockdown” series. We’re looking at how everyone’s mental health is being impacted by the current circumstances, but also how the world keeps on turning, and that means that certain aspects of life which impact people negatively, such as grief, cancer treatments, and domestic violence, are still going ahead, even amongst this crisis. In this series, we’re trying to consider particularly how mental health is impacted in these scenarios, whilst the world spins madly on.

 

During the current global pandemic, many people have been struggling with their mental health. Amongst these people, NHS front line staff have not only had to battle the virus every day, but have also had to battle with the mental health effects of the virus personally. It has been reported that NHS staff on the front line could develop anxiety, burn out or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the current environment they are working in, and the current events they are exposed to.

 

PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. PTSD can be caused by any situation that a person finds traumatic. This can develop immediately after the experience or it can occur weeks, months or even years later. It has been estimated that PTSD affects about 1 in 3 people who have experienced a traumatic event.

 

Some symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • Reliving the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks;
  • Feelings of isolation and guilt;
  • Problems sleeping; or
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate.

 

NHS frontline staff are at an increased level of suffering from PTSD as the pandemic has meant that they have been routinely exposed to traumatic events. Due to the impact of the virus, therefore, potentially 1 in 3 NHS frontline staff could develop PTSD.

 

The British Psychological Society has said that the UK is “running the risk of a future mental health crisis and a generation of burnt-out health workers” and have suggested that  psychological first aid should be developed in order for it to be available to frontline staff. Here at Thrive, we’ve always supported the idea that there should be workers qualified in Mental Health First Aid in every workplace.

 

Currently NHS staff have a helpline they can call when they are feeling stressed, but MPs have said this is not enough and extra support should be provided. Both the MPs and the British Psychological Society have said professional help from psychologists and therapists should be easily accessible for all frontline staff, so any trauma they experience can be dealt with early, to reduce more extreme negative effects in the future. SNP MP Lisa Cameron recently wrote to Health Secretary Matt Hancock stating that protecting the mental health of staff was “essential” and compared this need to the requirement for PPE in protecting their physical health. Here at Thrive, we agree with this sentiment wholeheartedly; NHS staff should be protected from the trauma and psychological ramifications of the current events.

 

It is clear more needs to be done to provide better mental health support to all frontline workers across the NHS. They are amongst our heroes during unprecedented time and they now need our support during their own battles with the consequences of the virus.

 

We support the #ThisIsMe campaign, which encourages conversations and story-telling regarding Mental Health. This is especially important at times like these, and from front-line workers, so we can all understand the trauma faced across the country and sympathise with this.

 

By the Thrive Tribe.

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