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Posttraumatic stress disorder: an exploratory study examining rates of trauma and PTSD and its effect on client outcomes in community mental health.

  • Author(s): Howgego, Irene M
  • Owen, Cathy
  • Meldrum, Lenore
  • Yellowlees, Peter
  • Dark, Frances
  • Parslow, Ruth
  • et al.
Abstract

Background

Rates of trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were examined in order to compare the profile in clients of an Australian Public Mental Health Service with that reported in the international literature for clients with major mental illness and to explore the effect of this on client health outcomes. Potential factors contributing to increased levels of trauma/PTSD in this group of clients and the issue of causality between PTSD and subsequent mental illness was also explored.

Methods

A convenience sample of 29 clients was screened for trauma and PTSD using the Posttraumatic Stress Diagnostic Scale (PDS) and selected outcome measures. Paired and independent samples t-test and ANOVA were applied to the data.

Results

High levels of undocumented trauma and PTSD were found. Twenty clients, (74%) reported exposure to multiple traumatic events; 33.3% (9) met DSM IV diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Significant difference was found for PTSD symptomatology, severity and impairment and for client and clinician-rated scores of Quality of Life (QOL) outcomes in the PTSD group. No effect for PTSD symptomatology on the Working Alliance (WA) was found. Factors that may influence higher rates of PTSD in this group were identified and included issues associated with the population studied, the predominance of assaultive violence found, and vulnerability and risks factors associated with re-traumatisation within the social and treating environments.

Conclusion

A similar trauma and PTSD profile to that reported in the international literature, including greater levels of trauma and PTSD and a poorer QOL, was found in this small sample of clients. It is postulated that the increased levels of trauma/PTSD as reported for persons with major mental illness, including those found in the current study, are primarily related to the characteristics of the population that access public mainstream psychiatric services and that these factors have specific implications for service delivery, and raise issues of efficiency and effectiveness of resource use in achieving successful outcomes in public mental health services for clients with co-morbid PTSD. Further research with a more rigorous design is needed to test these preliminary findings within Australian Community Mental Health Services.

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