Thursday September 23, 2021

49pc of ICU staff ‘have mental health issues’ due to Covid

January 13, 2021

LONDON: Almost half of intensive care staff working during the coronavirus crisis are likely to be suffering from problem drinking, severe anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), new research suggests.

The study, from King’s College London and published in the journal Occupational Medicine, found poor mental health was common among intensive care unit (ICU) staff, and was more pronounced in nurses than in doctors or health workers on the ward.

For the study, 709 healthcare workers from nine ICUs in England completed anonymous web-based surveys in June and July 2020.

Some 291 of the staff (41 per cent) were doctors, 344 (49 per cent) were nurses, and 74 (10 per cent) were other healthcare staff.

Over half (59 per cent) reported their wellbeing as being good but 45 per cent met the threshold for probable clinical significance for at least one of the following conditions: severe depression (6 per cent), PTSD (40 per cent), severe anxiety (11 per cent) or problem drinking (7 per cent).

One in eight (13 per cent) staff reported having frequent thoughts of being better off dead, or of hurting themselves in the previous two weeks.

Lead author, Professor Neil Greenberg, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s, said: “Our results show a substantial burden of mental health symptoms being reported by ICU staff towards the end of the first wave in July and July 2020.

“The severity of symptoms we identified are highly likely to impair some ICU staffs ability to provide high quality care as well as negatively impacting on their quality of life.” PTSD is caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events and symptoms include repeated nightmares and flashbacks.

Data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey of 2004, the most recent data available, found 4 per cent of people in the general population screened positive for PTSD, rising to 13 per cent of young women aged 16 to 24.

Some 6 per cent of people suffered anxiety disorder while 4 per cent had depression.

Prof Greenberg said that while the results of his new study were not surprising, “they should serve as a stark reminder to NHS managers of the pressing need to protect the mental health of ICU workers now in order to ensure they can deliver vital care to those in need”.

The researchers on the paper, including experts from University College London and the University of Oxford, said further work was now needed.

They said self-report questionnaires can sometimes overestimate the rate of clinically relevant mental health symptoms.