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UCLA School of Nursing

“Mental Disorders Could Become Second Pandemic” Says Trauma Expert

5-May-2020 1:20 PM EDT, by UCLA School of Nursing

Kristen Choi, PhD, MS, RN, is a psychiatric nurse and an expert in mental health, trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Her current research projects include studies on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), adverse childhood experiences, the impact of trauma and violence on nurses, and firearm violence. 

“This pandemic has potential to harm mental health in communities, and over time, the need for mental health services may increase,” said Choi.   “Mental disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, self-harm, and others could become a ‘second pandemic.’ We need to be anticipating needs, preparing resources, and developing adaptive care delivery models now,”

“In particular, there needs to be a focus on the health care professionals who have been on the front line – oftentimes away from their families and social support systems. Their exposure to patients with this deadly disease and death is on a daily basis may lead to burnout, secondary trauma, or other areas of mental health need.”

For example, following the SARS outbreak in 2003, studies showed that healthcare workers and individuals who had to self-quarantine exhibited symptoms of PTSD. 

“It is perfectly normal to feel stress and anxiety during this time,” added Choi.  “Many of us have coping strategies that can help us be resilient and buffer stress, but if you notice they aren’t working,  seeking out additional support is the right thing to do."




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