The Gift in the COVID-19 Storm A Focus on Ethics & Mental Health

Kim Ballantine

Are you finding yourself imagining worst case scenario’s as we go into a third wave of COVID-19? Are you anticipating the trauma amongst colleagues, patients and family that a third wave may bring? Maybe these intrusive images are leading to anxiety, to nightmares, sleep disturbances, irritability and a dulled response to your everyday responsibilities. These “flash forwards” may be producing trauma, even though you have not lived through the event.

Chances are you are not alone and your colleagues and patients may be struggling with the same issue: Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pre-TSD is not uncommon during times of trauma or disruptive events, such as the current pandemic, and manifests similarly to PTSD. However, PTSD follows a traumatic event, whereas Pre-TSD occurs during a traumatic event, as individuals anticipate trauma and experience flash forwards to these traumatic events.

In a recent South African study, 46% of the respondents indicated that they were experiencing high levels of psychological distress due to social distancing measures, the disruption of routines and usual activities, loneliness, depression and even substance abuse. All of this can contribute to Pre-TSD in both health care providers and the patients they treat as a third COVID-19 wave hits.

If not addressed, Pre-TSD can impact your functioning at work with lower productivity levels, increased errors due to poor judgement, poorer patient relationships and a higher risk of accidents and injuries on the job. It therefore has ethical implications if not addressed.

Everyone wants society to return to normal. We all want to live as we once did, but are we prepared to do what it takes to get there? Are we as health care providers prepared to address the impact of COVID-19 on our own mental health?

Join me as I look at the impact of COVID-19 on our mental wellness as health care providers, particularly compassion fatigue, burnout, moral injury, burn-in, and Pre-TSD.

“In short, the severity of Pre-TSD on our well-being during this unprecedented period of flux must be addressed if society is to return to normal.” Rothman

Click here to learn more about The Gift in the Covid-19 Storm: A Focus on the Mental Wellness Challenge and Ethics

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