Nearly half of US public health workers have experienced mental health symptoms
According to the survey responses published in MMWR.
“From March to April 2021, a survey of state, tribal, local and territorial public health officials found that 52.8% of respondents had symptoms of at least one of the following mental health conditions: depression , anxiety or PTSD”, Ahwa KoneMPH, of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team, and colleagues wrote. “However, more recent estimates of mental health symptoms among this population are limited.”
Konè and his fellow researchers sought to examine the amount and prevalence of the above symptoms as well as suicidal ideation among this population since March 2021.
The self-administered, anonymous online survey was conducted among a sample of public health workers from United States health departments during part of 2021. The survey included questions about demographics, employment history, traumatic events or stressors experienced in the previous year. , employer-provided resources, and self-reported mental health symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, or suicidal ideation in the previous 2 weeks.
Mental health problems were defined via the General Anxiety Disorder-2 questionnaire for anxiety, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depression, and the six-item Impact of Event Scale for PTSD, with one item from the PHQ- 9 to assess suicidal ideation. The prevalence of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal ideation was stratified by demographic characteristics, workplace factors, stressors encountered, and coping mechanisms.
Results showed that 48% of 26,069 respondents (95% CI 47.3% to 48.7%) had symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTSD, with PTSD being the most frequently reported symptom ( 28.4%), followed by anxiety (27.9%), depression (27.7%) and suicidal thoughts (8.1%). The prevalence of depression, anxiety and PTSD among public health workers was lower (3.1%, 2.4% and 8.4%, respectively) among respondents to the 2022 survey compared to respondents to the 2021 survey.
The data further revealed, according to 75.5% of public health workers, that their employer had not increased mental health support for staff members since March 2021. Among public health workers who have perceived an increase in mental health resources, those considered most helpful showed appreciation for the work of staff members (63.4%), telework options (58.2%) and flexible working hours (55%).
“It is essential that public health agencies invest in and develop their [state, tribal, local, territorial] public health personnel to address mental health, including symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidal ideation,” Konè and colleagues wrote.