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COVID-19 VS PTSD

SECTION B: HARD TO PREDICT

THE other week I introduced a very important topic elaborating how Covid-19 can cause and has caused mental health and related problems. One such being PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) which in simpler terms is psychological disorder one experiences after a very traumatic experience.

In section A, we covered the introduction and looked at some of the common signs and symptoms associated with PTSD and just how dangerous this condition can be.

As we all know, Covid-19 is a global pandemic that is still causing mayhem and has affected a lot of people in so many ways and at so many levels.

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To most survivors who had ended up in ICU, the trauma of the “near death experience” still haunts them to this day.  Then there are those who lost loved ones who still can’t come to terms with the loss especially that their deaths were so sudden making them feel like their loved ones didn’t even fall “sick.”  They were here today and suddenly snatched off tomorrow.

On the other hand are the health care workers, the frontliners, reliving all the deaths they witnessed and sometimes coupled with the guilt of being helpless to save the lives entrusted to them.  And yet still there is a great number   people on a social level who are traumatised because of loss of business, loss of jobs, disturbance of education, lack of food, shelter etcetera. The lasting ugly effects of Covid-19 cannot be summed up.

BUILT DIFFERENTLY

It is worth mentioning that not all people facing such stressful situations would react the same way. Some cope well and move on with their lives while others end up developing different mental problems including PTSD and depression.

Why is it so and is it possible to predict who would end up with PTSD or not?  I wish answers to these questions were as straight as one plus one equals two. There are a lot of theories, they try as much to explain but like everything else, we can’t really be certain.

 Scientists who are still trying to figure out the reason, may not all agree but some explanations that stand out have to do with our different genetics and how different our brain is and how it functions in relation to different levels of hormones and what are called neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that carry information/signals between neurons. Simply put, we are built differently.

HORMONES

The different levels of hormones play a huge difference. In this case it is hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, both from a gland on top of the kidney called suprarenal gland.

They are usually released during a stressful situation, for either “flight or fight” response. Some studies in the Swedish Army showed that soldiers who had low levels of cortisol before going for combat were at a high risk of developing PTSD after combat than their counterparts whose levels were normal or higher. Some studies have shown that adrenaline is higher in PTSD sufferers.

NEUROTRANSMITTERS

Other studies indicate that people that suffer from PTSD have chronically low levels of a neurotransmitter serotonin, which contributes to the commonly associated behavioural symptoms such as anxiety, ruminations, irritability, aggression, suicidality, and impulsivity.  And others show that such people have high levels of dopamine, another neurotransmitter.

THERE ARE DIFFERENCES IN THE SIZES OF THE BRAIN

Some  differences  have been attributed to  the size of the brain itself while others to an organ called the amygdala, an almond like structure located where the two imaginary lines would meet, one from the eye, the other from the ear. It is known to be an emotional centre of the brain. It is believed to be responsible for reliving nightmares when one is stimulated by events that trigger those bad past memories.

So many other studies reveal so many differences. The bottom line is that we can’t really predict for sure how different people will react to the similar stressful event. 

That is why it is important to look out for signs and symptoms, for anyone can be a victim of this psychological breakdown. Please refer to article with section A for the signs and symptoms.

MALAYSIA’S  WHITE FLAG CAMPAIGN

 PTSD has been related to high suicide rates. It can lead to depression which eventually leads to suicide. In Malaysia, there had been an increase in the number of suicide cases especially among the youth following the critical condition brought about by Covid. It is said that the police had recorded 468 cases of suicide in the first five months of 2021.

Malaysian health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said that some individuals are at a higher risk of suffering from mental health issues including depression, especially when under tremendous stress or when isolated from a support network of friends and family.

The government launched the “white flag campaign” to encourage people who may be going through such traumatic experiences and who definitely are in need of urgent help to “speak out” by raising a “white flag.”

Therefore, the public is urged to be more aware of family members and people around them who may display signs of depression that could lead to suicide.

IT’S OK TO RAISE THE WHITE FLAG

Please, if you feel like you belong to the group of people that has been greatly mentally affected by Covid, either by suffering from it, losing a loved one, as a care giver, affected on a social level or for whatever reason, please know help is available.

There are people willing to talk to you, they are ready to help you. Kindly focus on how to live the best with what we have now. Please find that will to move on and hold on to it.  Please don’t keep it all in to yourself, raise that white flag, speak out.

BEING A “BROTHER’S KEEPER”

A lot of people who may be facing the psychological breakdown due to the traumatic experience in this case as a result of Covid-19 or any other cause, may not voice out.

These people need your and my help. It is easy to ignore or downplay their situation that may lead to terrible consequences. Some may even look strong and pretend all is well when around you and yet deep down they are just a ticking time bomb. Such articles are to cause awareness and also equip you with tools of knowledge that may help save someone’s life.

Of course we may not see the white flags like in Malaysia but they are raising them every day. They raise them at work, in the hospitals, in church, on the bus, at home etc. Please let us be a brother’s keeper, a sister’s keeper.

Please let us lend a caring hand, listening ear and material support whenever necessary. Kindly look out for the odd behaviours, change in: mood, eating habits, alcohol consumption, smoking habits etc.

The best way we can all be sure to help is by preventing such a situation in the first place. As a loving brother’s/sister’s keeper, please let us mask up, sanitise, observe hand hygiene, and get vaccinated.

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