People who face trauma frequently experience the potentially long-lasting effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The global COVID-19 pandemic is causing a mental health crisis for people all over the world. For some this can trigger trauma symptoms, and services like Talkspace are being utilized to help deal with those mental health issues while maintaining social distancing.
Studies have suggested that the current population could be at a higher risk of suffering from trauma symptoms in the future as well. Looking at the stress and trauma caused in refugee populations, experts are able to link difficult life events to PTSD anxiety or depression symptoms triggered by future points of stress. These directly correlate to the types of future retraumatization that could occur if the pandemic has a second wave spike in infections.
Talkspace defines trauma as “the exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. Sometimes it directly happens to you, but in other cases, it occurs because you’ve witnessed an event, the event has happened to someone you love, or you’re repeatedly confronted with details of the event.” An estimated 70% of American adults will face at least one traumatic event during their lifetime, but not all traumatic experiences lead to future psychological problems or PTSD.
Certain risk factors will increase the likelihood of PTSD symptoms, including pre-existing conditions, socioeconomic status, lower IQ, and lack of social support, according to Talkspace.
Responses of traumatic stress have been specifically tied to COVID-19 in other studies. An excerpt from Psychol Trauma and published on NCBI notes:
“Given the rapid acceleration of transmission, and the lack of preparedness to prevent and treat this virus, the negative impacts of COVID-19 are rippling through every facet of society. Although large numbers of people throughout the world will show resilience to the profound loss, stress, and fear associated with COVID-19, the virus will likely exacerbate existing mental health disorders and contribute to the onset of new stress-related disorders for many.”
Part of the recommendations reached by this study report:
“As members of our community begin to rapidly develop and test interventions for COVID-19-related distress, we hope that those in positions of leadership in the field of traumatic stress consider limits of our current approaches, and invest the intellectual and financial resources urgently needed in order to innovate, forge partnerships, and develop the technologies to support those in greatest need.”
Talkspace is one of these organizations looking to fill the gaps in care and support those in need. The technologies used by Talkspace allow patients to seek therapeutic support and work through the aspects of the trauma they are experiencing due to the global pandemic.
Online counseling offered by Talkspace works to combat the issues that are exacerbated by isolation. Most individuals face far better outcomes when they have regular support. Published by the Academic Press, “Stress Resilience” points to factors that can mitigate trauma:
“Since ‘few can go-it-alone,’ having a social support network in place, on which one can rely during trauma or stress, can mean the difference between resilient outcomes versus the development of psychopathology. Social relations contribute to emotional strength, and social support can influence one’s beliefs about themselves and their worlds (Panzarella et al., 2006), which can facilitate optimism and positive self-regard. Supportive social networks also encourage active and adaptive coping behavior.”
While orders to stay-at-home may not seem trauma-causing, the result of separation, fear, and economical strain can add up to a very difficult situation. Many are struggling to navigate an unprecedented situation with an unknown path towards restoring their life to normal. What started with a lack of self-care can snowball into distress and trauma for many. A lack of social support can increase the already-difficult situation brought by the coronavirus and create a devastating impact. The Lancet published a study that noted the impact of coronavirus stay-home orders is causing long-lasting effects:
“Quarantine is often an unpleasant experience for those who undergo it. Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects. Suicide has been reported, substantial anger generated, and lawsuits brought6 following the imposition of quarantine in previous outbreaks. The potential benefits of mandatory mass quarantine need to be weighed carefully against the possible psychological costs. Successful use of quarantine as a public health measure requires us to reduce, as far as possible, the negative effects associated with it.” (2020. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it)
Reducing the negative effects of quarantine is what virtual therapies aim to do. Talkspace offers digital solutions for unlimited text, and video telehealth sessions. One of the struggles many face is the stigma that keeps them from seeking therapy. Talkspace notes: “anyone can develop PTSD and it’s important to remove the stigma for populations that are less likely to seek mental health support including military soldiers, refugees, firefighters, and police officers.”
The trauma caused by the looming threat of coronavirus and restrictions directly tied to the pandemic could lead to lasting symptoms without support. Talkspace is working to shift the dynamic with readily available online therapy with a licensed counselor.
These therapy sessions are more convenient because they can be done from the privacy of a smart device. The service typically cost less than a traditional, in-person session because patients aren’t required to visit in-person and the overhead costs are fewer. While health companies have been pushing for increased telemedicine for a long time, the crisis has pushed these to happen quickly because traditional in-person care is not possible. Many are unable to comfortably visit an office for a therapy session but have easy access to a device for a virtual session in the privacy and comfort of their own home – or anywhere they can get an internet connection.
It is in this setting that therapists can start working to change potential PTSD into PTG or post-traumatic growth. This allows people struggling with the effects of trauma to channel their distress into re-evaluating their lives and discovering new meaning. Responses, like newfound gratitude and a focus on self-care, can result from traumatic settings when professionals are able to help guide the outcome.