Research has identified these 3 factors as early predictors of PTSD and depression for paramedics
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Factors predicting the risk of developing PTSD and depression in Emergency Service Workers can be identified as early as the first week of training, a new study has found.
The study found that even accounting for past psychiatric history, trainee paramedics were more likely to experience PTSD and depression later in their career if they had:
- lower perceived resilience to trauma; and
- if they dwelled on stressful events from the past before they started their training.
Surprisingly, the study found that the number of traumatic incidents experienced did not predict PTSD.
Instead, the number of traumatic incidents experienced predicted risk of developing depression.
This suggests a cumulative risk of different exposures to trauma for depression.
Lead researcher, Dr Jennifer Wild from the University of Oxford, explained:
Emergency workers are regularly exposed to stressful and traumatic situations and some of them will experience periods of mental illness.
Some of the factors that make that more likely can be changed through resilience training, reducing the risk of PTSD and depression.
We wanted to test whether we could identify such risk factors, making it possible to spot people at higher risk early in their training and to develop interventions that target these risk factors to strengthen their resilience.
Overall, the study found that 8.3% of the paramedics developed an episode of PTSD and 10.6% experienced an episode of depression.
In all but nine cases (2.3%), people got better within 4 months.
At 2 years, those with episodes of PTSD or depression reported more days off work, poorer sleep, poorer quality of life, and greater burn-out.
Those that experienced PTSD also reported greater weight-gain.
Professor Anke Ehlers, another of the study’s authors said:
While just under one in five experienced PTSD or depression in the two years, most got better by the next four-month follow-up.
Dr Wild said:
This is not about screening out particular people in training.
Early assessment means that those who are more at risk can be offered training to improve their resilience to stressful and traumatic experiences.
That has the potential to reduce episodes of PTSD and major depression and improve the long term health of a valued and essential workforce.
The study was published in the journal Psychological Medicine (Wild et al., 2016)
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