One in four healthcare professionals engaged in treating Covid patients in Bangladesh had suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a government study has found.
PTSD can develop from traumatic events, and symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
Among the healthcare professionals, doctors came off worst, followed by nurses and technologies, the study scheduled for release today found.
Under the study styled "Psychological impacts, well-being, associated factors and coping strategies of health professionals during Covid-19 pandemic in Bangladesh", 1,394 healthcare professionals were interviewed in person between January and June last year.
Of them, 596 were doctors, 713 nurses and 85 were medical technologists.
The interviewed healthcare professionals had worked for at least a month with Covid patients.
Females appeared to be more vulnerable to PTSD. Almost 63 percent of those interviewed had PTSD, it found.
"PTSD was more prevalent in healthcare professionals with children (24.3 percent) than those without children (21.4 percent)," it found.
The healthcare professionals had a high workload and endured a scarcity of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ran the risk of contracting Covid.
"Most of the participants were stressed, tired and many had difficulty sleeping. Some were worried about their families and relatives, which aggravated their tension and anxiety," it said.
One participant said, "As it is an infectious disease, we had the same fear as the patients. Many things were unknown to us. The hospitals were not ready to treat this type of new disease. Threats of duty-induced infection along with a negative attitude of the society, including patients, the media and mass people aggravated our mental stress."
Many participants adopted strategies, including regular prayers, watching TV, reading, surfing the internet, and spending time on social media, to mitigate the effects of the disorder. Some even resorted to taking sedatives.
Prof Baizid Khoorshid Riaz, the principal investigator of the study and director of the National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (NIPSOM), told The Daily Star that the affected healthcare professionals could start self-isolating or quit their jobs or have suicidal tendencies if they go through another traumatic experience.
This health problem should be addressed by the authorities concerned so that they could avoid the consequences of PTSD, he added.
The study suggested strengthening and introducing measures for the psychological well-being of healthcare professionals, their recovery, and counselling programmes.
He said they have no information regarding how the affected healthcare professionals are doing now as the data was collected last year.
NIPSOM conducted the study with the financial assistance of the Directorate General of Medical Education.
Bangladesh detected its first coronavirus patient on March 8, 2020, and recorded its first Covid death on March 18 that year. Since then, 1,953,298 people were infected and 29,130 died of Covid.