Raised levels of depression and PTSD in ambulance staff: causes and solutions

Background: Ambulance staff are reported to have higher levels of mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), than the general population. Vicarious trauma has been attributed to the increased prevalence of depression and PTSD in ambulance service staff. Aims: This literature review explores the causes of the greater prevalence of PTSD and discusses interventions to lower these high rates. Methods: A literature review was carried out and four relevant studies were selected. A critical appraisal tool was then used to produce a systematic analysis. Findings: PTSD in the ambulance service is up to 10 times greater than in the general public, higher than in both the police and fire services and equal to that in the military. The cause of this higher prevalence of PTSD lies not only in vicarious trauma but also in the toll of shift work and in biological predisposition. Conclusion: There is a paucity of research on PTSD in ambulance staff; research is needed into post-exposure treatments as well as into pre-exposure interventions.

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