Post-traumatic stress disorder following patient assaults among staff members of mental health hospitals: a prospective longitudinal study

Richter, Dirk; Berger, Klaus
January 2006
BMC Psychiatry;2006, Vol. 6, p15
Academic Journal
Background: Violence by patients against staff members in mental health institutions has become an important challenge. Violent attacks may not only cause bodily injuries but can also have posttraumatic consequences with high rates of stress for mental health staff. This study prospectively assessed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in employees who were severely assaulted by patients in nine German state mental health institutions. Methods: During the study period of six months 46 assaulted staff members were reported. Each staff member was interviewed three times after the violent incident, using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), a widely used PTSD research tool, as well as the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist - Civilian (PCL-C). Results: In the baseline assessment following an assault by a patient, eight subjects (17%) met the criteria for PTSD. After two and six months, three and four subjects respectively still met diagnosis criteria. Conclusion: A small minority of assaulted employees suffer from PTSD for several months after a patient assault.


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