While we continue to fight the pandemic, studies have found elevated levels of post-traumatic stress disorder not only in front-line workers, but COVID-19 survivors as well. What does this mean for our post-pandemic world?
After the SARS 2003 epidemic, studies in Hong Kong had found that nearly 40% of survivors had post traumatic stress symptoms. These past studies give an indication of current psychological effects, though as the death tolls get higher, experts say that we are in uncharted territory for predicting the effects of the pandemic long-term. The director of the National Institute of Mental Health had stated “I have no doubt that there are some people who have a diagnosable mental illness — depression, anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder — as a result of COVID.” The Kaiser Family Foundation also released poll findings, where 53% of adults had reported negative impacts on mental health in August; back in March this number used to be 32%. Among these reports rises the negative impacts of the pandemic on sleeping, eating, and substance abuse.
Long term visions
Clinicians and planners have recently been increasing efforts in addressing the mental health needs of COVID survivors. Experts have considered implementing a “screen and treat” procedure to identify mental illnesses in patients and ensure that communities have access to the mental health resources available. Additionally, experts suggest that survivors who were once critically ill patients with the virus attend regular consultations to assess their mental health status.
Some states are making other advancements. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a bill that will allow treatment of anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions to be more easily accessible. As many frontline workers and families are grappling with the trauma they have experienced, combinations of psychotherapy with drugs have resulted in promising outcomes in the effort to treat PTSD.
It’s clear to many that the approach to the mental health agenda these past few months has been delayed among the COVID response and race for vaccines. Though, despite the setback and in the struggle to adjust to the new normal, PTSD and other mental disorders remain to be a concern to the response in light of the trauma and stress the pandemic has brought on.