Despite extensive research on COVID-19’s impact on healthcare workers, few studies have targeted mental health workers (MHWs) and none have investigated previous traumatic events. We investigated psychological distress in MHWs after the first lockdown in Italy to understand which COVID-19, sociodemographic, and professional variables represented greater effects, and the role of previous trauma. The survey included sociodemographic and professional questions, COVID-19 variables, and the questionnaires Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5), Impact of Event Scale—Revised (IES-R), and Depression Anxiety Stress Scales 21 (DASS-21). On the 271 MHWs who completed the survey (73.1% female; mean age 45.37), we obtained significant effects for contagion fear, experience of patients’ death, increased workload, and worse team relationship during the first wave. Nurses were more affected and showed more post-traumatic stress symptoms, assessed by IES-R, and more depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms, assessed by DASS-21. The strongest risk factors for distress were greater age, professional role, increased workload, worse team relationship, and separation from family members. Previous experience of severe human suffering and unwanted sexual experiences negatively impacted IES-R and DASS-21 scores. Being a psychiatrist or psychologist/psychotherapist and good team relationships were protective factors. Recent but also previous severe stressful events might represent relevant risk factors for distress, reducing resilience skills. Identifying vulnerable factors and professional categories may help in the development of dedicated measures to prevent emotional burden and support psychological health. Highlights: Psychological distress in mental health workers in the COVID-19 pandemic is more frequent in nurses, who experience more depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Previous and recent stressful events are risk factors for distress and should guide intervention strategies.

The Elephant in the Room: A Cross-Sectional Study on the Stressful Psychological Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Mental Healthcare Workers

Minelli, Alessandra;Barlati, Stefano
;
Vezzoli, Marika;Nibbio, Gabriele;Lisoni, Jacopo;Perusi, Giulia;Accardo, Vivian;Deste, Giacomo;Vita, Antonio
2022

Abstract

Despite extensive research on COVID-19’s impact on healthcare workers, few studies have targeted mental health workers (MHWs) and none have investigated previous traumatic events. We investigated psychological distress in MHWs after the first lockdown in Italy to understand which COVID-19, sociodemographic, and professional variables represented greater effects, and the role of previous trauma. The survey included sociodemographic and professional questions, COVID-19 variables, and the questionnaires Life Events Checklist for DSM-5 (LEC-5), Impact of Event Scale—Revised (IES-R), and Depression Anxiety Stress Scales 21 (DASS-21). On the 271 MHWs who completed the survey (73.1% female; mean age 45.37), we obtained significant effects for contagion fear, experience of patients’ death, increased workload, and worse team relationship during the first wave. Nurses were more affected and showed more post-traumatic stress symptoms, assessed by IES-R, and more depressive, anxiety, and stress symptoms, assessed by DASS-21. The strongest risk factors for distress were greater age, professional role, increased workload, worse team relationship, and separation from family members. Previous experience of severe human suffering and unwanted sexual experiences negatively impacted IES-R and DASS-21 scores. Being a psychiatrist or psychologist/psychotherapist and good team relationships were protective factors. Recent but also previous severe stressful events might represent relevant risk factors for distress, reducing resilience skills. Identifying vulnerable factors and professional categories may help in the development of dedicated measures to prevent emotional burden and support psychological health. Highlights: Psychological distress in mental health workers in the COVID-19 pandemic is more frequent in nurses, who experience more depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Previous and recent stressful events are risk factors for distress and should guide intervention strategies.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11379/555095
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