According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP), there could be 230,000 cases of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) unleashed across England in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Announcing new information resources for sufferers and their families, the college highlighted that 35 percent of COVID patients placed on a ventilator suffered symptoms that match those commonly associated with PTSD. At the same time, 40 percent of the 709 intensive care staff who responded to a survey distributed among six NHS hospitals in England, described symptoms consistent with PTSD.
Post traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition that manifests as a response to a traumatic event. Symptoms can include anxiety, depression and flashbacks that become a persistent feature of the daily lives of sufferers and cause them to feel extreme distress.
The editor of the RCP’s new patient resource, Neil Greenberg, said: ‘It’s a common misunderstanding that only people in the armed forces can develop PTSD – anyone exposed to a traumatic event is at risk. If left untreated it can ruin the lives of those who suffer from it as well as negatively affect their families, friends and colleagues.
‘However, clearly there are jobs, including working in many healthcare settings, where experiencing traumatic events is more common so the risk of developing PTSD is unfortunately much higher.
‘It’s vital that anyone exposed to traumatic events is properly supported at work and home. Early and effective support can reduce the likelihood of PTSD and those affected should be able to access evidence-based treatment in a timely manner. Especially our NHS staff who are at increased risk as a result of this unprecedented crisis.’
The RCP’s resources come at a time of renewed focus on mental health issues. In recent months, the NHS has announced a financial package designed to boost the numbers of psychotherapeutic counsellors available to people suffering with depression and other mental health conditions. The move reflects a greater demand for mental health services, with 644,649 people completing NHS Talking Therapy programmes in 2020/21 alone.
The Workers Union Says…
Mental trauma, depression and anxiety are amongst the most insidious of conditions. Not only do they affect the lives of the people that endure them, they also cast a long shadow over productivity at work, familial relations and healthcare provision.
Fortunately our society has moved beyond a stoic insistence on keeping a stiff upper-lip, and mental health is now taken much more seriously. That notwithstanding, our research suggests that employers could do more to help their staff maintain the balanced working life that’s so important for good mental health. We have, for example, written extensively about the value of flexible working and maintaining good systems of support for remote workers. We have repeatedly called for more resources to help beleaguered healthcare workers recover themselves. But our membership records are still full of cases where bullying, harassment and bad practice have worn the mental fabric of complainants to a frayed end.
With COVID adding its own brand of complications to the mix, organisations must show stronger leadership in dealing with these issues. We have the means to combat this epidemic, but we must not rely on public resources alone.