Mental Health Dangers for the Front Lines During COVID-19

January 26, 2021

On this episode, we speak with the coauthor of a paper looking at the mental health stressors facing first responders and health care workers during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The paper found that a sizable number of these frontline workers are at risk for psychiatric illnesses at severity levels higher than other national disasters, including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

Since the first wave of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began in the United States in late winter and early spring last year, health care workers and first responders have reported extreme amounts of stress. Journal of Psychiatric Research recently published a study conducted in 2 counties in Utah and Colorado in April and early May 2020, before that region experienced its first surge of cases.

The survey of first responders, including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and health care workers, found that they are at risk for psychiatric illnesses at severity levels higher than other national disasters, including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. On today’s episode of Managed Care Cast, we speak with Andrew Smith, PhD, a coauthor of the paper and a faculty member at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He is the founder and director of the Occupational Trauma Program and holds a joint appointment at the VA Salt Lake City Healthcare System as a health psychologist.

In addition to the University of Utah researchers, other scientists on the paper include those from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences; University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; Central Arkansas VA Health Care System; Salt Lake City VA Healthcare System; and the National Institute for Human Resilience.

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