Rapid assessment of mental health of Detroit-area health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic may adversely impact the mental health of health care workers (HCWs). To address this issue, it is essential to determine levels of anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress, and sources of stress, and to identify subgroups of HCWs at a higher risk of adverse mental health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study of symptoms of mental illness in HCWs in the area surrounding Detroit, Michigan. The online survey included questions about demographics, health and clinical factors, and sources of stress. Several tools were used to assess psychiatric symptoms among HCWs, including the Perceived Stress Scale, the Patient Health Questionnaire depression scale, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item assessment, and the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5. The adequacy of personal protective equipment, patient resources, and training for highly contagious diseases were rated.

RESULTS: The sample (N = 129) was predominantly female (51.2%) and White (65.9%), with 30.2% screening positive for clinical follow-up to assess anxiety, 20.9% for moderate to severe depression, and 16.3% for elevated traumatic stress. Differences were found by self-reported psychiatric diagnosis and chronic conditions, and role on treatment teams.

CONCLUSIONS: Frontline HCWs demonstrate high levels of stress and trauma symptoms. Timely screening and accommodations may be needed during health care crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

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