Thursday, August 27, 2020

Social Services Staff Found to Experience Mental Health Problems a Year After Mass Shooting

In a neighborhood where a mass shooting had occurred less than a year before, one-third of social services staff screened positive for mental health disorders, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Eleven months after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Rafael J. Engel, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh and colleagues reached out to nonprofit organizations in the synagogue’s neighborhood. Eight executives of the social service agencies and educational institutions emailed surveys to their staffs aimed at measuring mental health symptoms , comprising 374 individuals.

The survey screened for depression, suicidal ideation, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, alcohol misuse, marijuana use, and drug use for nonmedical reasons. Among the screening measures used were the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, and Primary Care for PTSD Screen for DSM-5.

Of the 167 staff members who completed the online survey, 33.3% screened positive for at least one of the mental health disorders.

  • 24.4% screened positive for alcohol misuse
  • 21.8% screened positive for marijuana use
  • 19.9% screened positive for posttraumatic stress disorder
  • 19.2% screened positive for generalized anxiety disorder
  • 10.9% screened positive for depression
  • 9.6% screened positive for suicidal ideation
  • 9% screened positive for nonmedical drug use.

There was no statistically significant difference between the participants’ mental health screening results and their work position. “The extent to which there are positive mental health and substance use screens and no differences by work position suggests that a mass shooting is a collective trauma and the professionals within an organization are not immune from the effects, regardless of position,” the authors wrote.

“There are devastating ripple effects for communities that suffer a mass casualty event," Engel told the news outlet UPI in an interview. “We tend to focus on the immediate period after a mass shooting and, unfortunately, the individuals who work at agencies in the communities where mass-shootings occur are often overlooked.”

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