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Study: Pandemic could affect mental health of frontline staff for years

Study: Pandemic could affect mental health of frontline staff for years

The pandemic’s impact on the medical frontline doctors and patients shouldn’t be underestimated, says the recent study. Both these groups are at risk of developing dementia later in life, another study echoes. The research by government hospital operator the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) found young female medics were most affected.

In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the frontline health workers could take years to recover from mental scars suffered from treating seriously ill patients during the COVID-19 outbreak, the local officials said. Doctors said psychological symptoms vary depending on the severity of infection.

In the UAE, Seha is responsible for operating corona testing centres and hospitals across the country. According to the recent study, the patients with long-term symptoms or who spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from the novel pathogen are also likely to suffer some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, The National reports.

Earlier, similar studies have shown symptoms of post-traumatic stress can be experienced for as long as 18 months after the outbreak ceases to exist. But the current health crisis is a bitter surprise.

To evaluate the impact of the outbreak, the UAE’s behavioural health council conducted dual studies to evaluate the mental health impact on care staff and patients. However, the number of doctors, nurses and patients who have been surveyed as part of the ongoing study was not disclosed.

“Our preliminary data analysis from healthcare workers’ surveys completed since the start of the pandemic shows young, single, female expatriates working in healthcare are the most affected,” said Dr Nahida Nayaz Ahmed, a consultant physician involved in the analysis at the Al Maqta Healthcare Centre in Abu Dhabi.

In other words, the study showed the middle-aged men and women with pre-existing conditions are most likely to suffer from stress and anxiety amid corona crisis.

Self-help, counselling and medication

For staff dealing with the corona patients, Seha decided to roll out psychological support through a telephone helpline. In addition, there were series of educational webinars on dealing with emotional waves from pandemic and group support.

“We also provided proactive counselling and medication intervention when necessary,” Dr Ahmed said.

Doctors and nurses working with high-risk patients on COVID wards at the height of the pandemic were most vulnerable to mental trauma, the study stresses.