Anonymous British Army soldier in Afghanistan 170312 CREDIT PA
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Sitrep: Frontline Health Worker's Stress Comparable To 'Quick-Fire' Military Ops

A military and veterans' mental health specialist told BFBS Sitrep why health workers could face similar stress to forces personnel.

Anonymous British Army soldier in Afghanistan 170312 CREDIT PA

As NHS frontline workers combat the coronavirus on the frontline, an expert has warned some could face a separate battle with their mental health as the pandemic continues.

Neil Greenberg, Professor of Defence Mental Health at King's College London told this week’s BFBS Sitrep there are now “lots of parallels” between healthcare workers and those deployed to war zones.

Professor Greenberg, also the lead for military and veterans' mental health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told Sitrep that the similarities begin with how workers had to respond to the pandemic as it started.

He says the circumstances bare a striking similarity to those facing military personnel on "quick-fire ops” - not necessarily well planned when the operations first begin.

For many frontline NHS workers, today's fight will take place in facilities like the new Nightingale hospitals (Picture: MOD).

Speaking on the NHS, Professor Greenberg explained:

“People were mobilised, moved into... different roles they weren’t ordinarily used to doing," he said.

"They needed to be prepared for those roles. They then had to move into doing challenging work over long periods of time and they actually faced risks themselves from doing it.” 

He says these conditions act as fertile ground for the same long-term issues developing in and leaving the military. 

In particular, Professor Greenberg points to a similar experience of “moral injury” - a situation "where someone feels a great degree of distress because their moral or ethical code is directly at odds with the decisions that they, or other people, have to make.”

The expert compared the choice of who to treat with limited resources to that of the quickfire life and death decisions soldiers have to make when identifying enemy combatants.

Professor Greenberg endorsed military personnel supporting the mental health of the healthcare workers at the hospital, praising the pre-emptive approach.

“The military mental health approach which is trying to keep people fighting fit and to nip it in the bud and not to over medicalise nor more distress, I think has a really great utility in trying to keep the healthcare workers at the moment going,” he said.

Cover image: Anonymous British Army soldier in Afghanistan (Picture: PA). (Picture: PA).

You can hear the programme live on Thursdays on BFBS Radio 2 at 16:30 (UK time) and at 18:30 (UK time) BFBS via DAB+ across the UK. 

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On Sky Channel 0211/Freesat 786.

Cover image: PA.