Following a traumatic experience, some experience intense flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, anger and fear. Key symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although usually associated with events from abuse or war, healthcare professionals warn that some may experience these symptoms as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we think about traumatic events, it’s not just what the event is, it’s really your interpretation and what the event causes for you,” says Luana Marques, clinical psychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
According to Marques, those who work on the frontline and who are healthcare workers are at most risk of developing PTSD from the pandemic. She said that those who have a history of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety are also at a greater risk.
Meanwhile, a report from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) in Texas said that more may also be at risk of mental health issues in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“Mitigating and treating the threat of this virus was the right immediate public health focus, and now we must prepare for a second wave of the pandemic involving ‘diseases of despair,’ especially depression and addiction.” says MMHPI president and CEO, Andy Keller.
According to computational models made by the institute, should extra efforts to identify and treat depression and addiction not be in place, every 5 percentage point increase in unemployment could result in an extra 4,000 Americans commiting suicide. They also warned that the same increase in unemployment could lead to an extra 4,800 Americans dying from overdose, and 600,000 more people to suffer from addiction.
Should the economic fallout following the pandemic equal that of the Great Depression between 1929 an 1933, the researchers estimate that 18,000 more people will commit suicide, an extra 22,000 will die from a drug overdose, and many more will be affected by addiction and depression across the US.
Precisely measuring the mental health impact following the pandemic may be difficult. This comes as trauma only tends to manifest 60-90 days following exposure to traumatic events. Due to the sustained and unpredictable length of measures taken against the pandemic, as well as any possible resurgences, the researchers warn that traumatic effects may continue to manifest for years to come, even after the worst is long over.