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Researchers study mental health effects of pandemic on Veterans and their spouses

Early reports signal support for telehealth services now and after the pandemic.

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A research team at Ontario’s Lawson Health Research Institute and Centre of Excellence on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is working to understand the mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Veterans and their spouses.

The study began in August 2020. It looks at several mental health conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder, suicidality and alcohol use disorder. The study involves over 1,500 participants from across Canada.

Dr. Don Richardson, Scientific Director of the MacDonald Franklin OSI Research Centre, is part of the research team conducting the study. He says he hopes their findings will lead to improved care for Veterans and their families.

“Understanding the effects the pandemic has on Veterans and their spouses can help government departments better support Veterans,” he says.

Participants complete a survey every three months to measure effects over time. The survey tracks mental well-being, social supports, lifestyle changes, and pandemic concerns. It also tracks satisfaction with health care treatment during the pandemic.

Early data indicate that 56% of respondents reported worse mental health compared to before the pandemic. Many of them directly link their symptoms to the pandemic.

“Our early results show the need to reach out and support Veterans during the pandemic, especially those with pre-existing mental health conditions,” says Dr. Richardson.

Most of the respondents who say they have been using telehealth services during the pandemic indicate they will continue to do so after the pandemic if the option is still available.

“Virtual care services were widely endorsed by Veterans seeking mental health treatment,” Dr. Richardson says, suggesting the importance of maintaining and enhancing virtual care after the pandemic.

The study ends in January 2022, after which time final results will be available.

If you need mental health support, learn about what resources are available on our Mental Health page.

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