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For Some, PTSD Expected to Follow COVID-19

April 27, 2020

While the full emotional effect of the fight against COVID-19 won’t be fully realized for years, behavioral healthcare teams are beginning to see increases in the number of people needing help.

Patricia Rehmer, MSN, ACHE, president of the Behavioral Health Network and vice president for Hartford HealthCare, said she and her colleagues also anticipate waves of people struggling with recurrent reminders of the fear and horrors stirred by the pandemic in the form of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The groups most affected, she predicted, will be:

  • Those who had the virus and survived.
  • Those overly fearful of getting the virus.
  • Healthcare workers who cared for people sick with the virus.

“We’re concerned about (these) several groups,” Rehmer told reporters during Hartford HealthCare’s daily press briefing.

While preparing for the anticipated increase in demand for mental health services of all kinds in the future as a result of the pandemic, she and staff at Hartford HealthCare’s Behavioral Health Network are urging people to focus on their mental health needs in the present.

She offered such tips as:

  • Increasing your sense of safety. That is as simple as taking steps to stay germ-free, such as wearing a mask in public, washing hands and coughing into the crook of your elbow.
  • Staying connected. While abiding by social distancing guidelines, reach out to family and friends regularly. She also suggested contacting clergy. Most church services have moved online and become less intimate, but anyone can fill a spiritual void by talking to their clergy.
  • Think of ways to be calmer. It’s important to decrease your exposure to stress and anything that raises your stress level. She suggested exercise, yoga or other activities you enjoy. It’s also important to take time away from work and the news.
  • Improve your ability to endure. The current challenge is difficult, but she stressed that we will get through it and must remain hopeful.

Incidences of PTSD attributable to COVID-19 might not be noticeable until months or even years after the pandemic wanes, Rehmer continued.

“It is critical for us to plan for this and have resources available,” she said.

Currently, the Behavioral Health Network has a warmline for people in the community to call if they need help with behavioral health or substance use concerns, and a hotline available 24 hours a day for staff. The team is currently looking into more “active” ways to reach staff instead of waiting for someone to call for help.

The Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network is now scheduling virtual-health visits for mental health and addiction services. Call your provider for details. New patients can schedule a virtual visit by calling he warmline at 1.888.984.2408.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Need to see your doctor? New Patient? For more information about Hartford HealthCare virtual health visits, click here.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

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