Any type of injury or illness may cause traumatic stress reactions in patients and their families. New research from The Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies in Australia, suggests that of adults who were hospitalized for burns, approximately 42% suffered some form of mental illness and 30% suffered depression at some stage in their lives. According to Dr. Miranda van Hooff, such a rate of depression and mental illness is "at a level higher than you would expect to find in the general population". Dr. van Hooff also found within this group of study participants the burn injury wasn't necessarily what affected people, but another traumatic event. The researchers believe "that while the memory of the burn itself may have faded with time, they have become more susceptible to mental trauma or the negative effects of additional trauma".
This research highlights the need to screen pediatric patients and families for distress, related not only to the injury or illness but also for additional life stress which may lead to negative health outcomes. Screening helps to determine which children and families might need more support, and to make appropriate referrals.
How to do screen your patients and their families for signs of emotional distress?