Background: Staff working in intensive care units (ICUs) have faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic which have the potential to adversely affect their mental health.
Aims: To identify the rates of probable mental health disorder in staff working in ICUs in nine English hospitals during June and July 2020.
Methods: An anonymized brief web-based survey comprising standardized questionnaires examining depression, anxiety symptoms, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), well-being and alcohol use was administered to staff.
Results: Seven hundred and nine participants completed the surveys comprising 291 (41%) doctors, 344 (49%) nurses and 74 (10%) other healthcare staff. Over half (59%) reported good well-being; however, 45% met the threshold for probable clinical significance on at least one of the following measures: severe depression (6%), PTSD (40%), severe anxiety (11%) or problem drinking (7%). Thirteen per cent of respondents reported frequent thoughts of being better off dead, or of hurting themselves in the past 2 weeks. Within the sample used in this study, we found that doctors reported better mental health than nurses across a range of measures.
Conclusions: We found substantial rates of probable mental health disorders, and thoughts of self-harm, amongst ICU staff; these difficulties were especially prevalent in nurses. Whilst further work is needed to better understand the real level of clinical need amongst ICU staff, these results indicate the need for a national strategy to protect the mental health, and decrease the risk of functional impairment, of ICU staff whilst they carry out their essential work during COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19; PTSD; doctors; intensive care; mental health; nurses; self-harm.
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