Traumatic Stress

What are the Likely Mental Health Consequences of the COVID-19 Crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis is challenging for everyone and people will respond to their experiences in different ways.  Common, normal reactions are likely to include positive emotions such as a feeling of togetherness and hope, along with negative emotions such as anxiety and lowered mood.  Some people are likely to develop more severe reactions, including grief, anxiety and depressive disorders and PTSD. Jon Bisson describes likely mental health consequences here.

 

Will the COVID-19 Crisis cause PTSD?

The majority of people are not likely to develop PTSD or CPTSD to the COVID-19 crisis but some people will.  For many people the experience will not involve exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violence (as required for a diagnosis of PTSD).  It will, however, involve other potentially very stressful and distressing experiences such as social isolation, shielding, financial loss, job loss and being exposed to situations that may result in infection.


 

Some people will be exposed to very traumatic experiences during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly threat to life and actual death and develop PTSD as a result of this. 

Who is at Highest Risk of PTSD?

The factor most likely to place people at higher risk of PTSD is a more traumatic experience during the crisis.  For example, people who have been very unwell themselves or experienced a relative being very unwell or having died will be at increased risk.  Frontline health and social care staff are also likely to be at increased risk due to their exposure to very traumatic events as part of their work.

In addition to the nature of the experience, other factors likely to increase risk of PTSD include previous mental health difficulties, difficulties dealing with stressful situations in general and, very importantly, a feeling of not being socially supported. 

Are Treatments Available if I do Develop Mental Health Problems as a Result of COVID-19

A wide range of different interventions and treatments are available to people who develop PTSD and other conditions as a result of COVID-19.  Helpful links for this can be found here.

Can the Negative Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19 be Prevented?

There are a number of very positive actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing negative mental health consequences.  These include eating healthily, maintaining social relationships, regular exercise and engaging in relaxing activities. The Mental Health Foundation and MIND and The National Centre for PTSD in the USA have produced some helpful advice and information and advice on this.

How Should Children and Young People be Supported?

Dr Siobhan Henley has produced a resource pack that is designed to help children, young people and parents.

The Mental Health Foundation (Talking to your children about the coronavirus pandemic) and MIND (Supporting your teen's wellbeing during coronavirus) websites, include helpful information that focuses on children and young people.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network in the USA has produced some helpful advice and the World Health Organisation has produced a book aimed at supporting children for parents/carers/teachers to read to 6-11 year olds here.