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Family members of ICU patients likely to develop mental illnesses

A loved one undergoing treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) is not the only one dealing with a tough phase of life. Their loved ones too are at a proportionate risk of developing severe health issues, specifically mental. According to a recent research published in the online journal “Critical Care Medicine”, it has been found that the family members of patients who are in intensive care are at a risk of developing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which lasts from months to years after the patient gets discharged from the hospital.

Stress levels measured through heart rate and cortisol level

The study was conducted to understand the link between levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) of family members of adult ICU patients and anxiety. To conduct the study, one adult family member of each patient who has recently been admitted to a multidisciplinary medical/surgical ICU was selected. Family members with a history of mental illness, pregnant or breastfeeding, prisoners and children were excluded from the study.

Once the selection process was over, demographic details, medical history, and the use of medications or substances that are known to interfere with salivary cortisol secretion were collected. The details about the ICU patients, such as gender, age, comorbidity score, length of hospital stay, and number of prior ICU stays in the last five years, were also collected. Along with this, five saliva samples were collected from the participants at five consecutive timings to measure the level of salivary cortisol.

On analyzing the data, it was found that the family members of ICU patients were at a greater risk of facing long-term effects from the stress caused due to the ill health of a loved one. Moreover, they did not pay any attention to their own health as they were more focused on the health of their loved one undergoing treatment in the ICU.

Taking self-care is important

Dr. Ellie Hirshberg, one of the study researchers, practicing critical medicine at the Intermountain Medical Center, said that, “The whole idea is really to bring the medical system and the family into the engaging process of promoting families and patients to be well.”

Taking good care of the loved one who is in ICU is not enough. Therefore, it is important for their family members to stay in good health so that they are able to take proper care of the loved one and help them lead a healthy life.

One can take care of themselves by eating healthy, practicing yoga and meditation, exercising regularly, communicating with friends, joining a support group, being kind to oneself, maintaining a personal diary, and staying active. Following these tips can be helpful and help one ensure that there is no risk of developing any form of mental illness.

Treatment for depression

Depression is never a choice. Factors like stress at home, pressure at work, family responsibilities, genetics, ageing, and several others can push one into depression. Therefore, it is extremely important for an individual to be aware of the triggers and prevent them to avoid the risk.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression and looking for a state-of-the-art residential depression treatment center that offers compassionate care in a safe and secure environment, then get in touch with Athena Behavioral Health. Call our 24/7 depression treatment helpline 9289086193 or chat online with an expert to know about the residential programs for depression offered at our centers in multiple locations.