Integration of Mental Health Services in Trauma Centers for Traumatically Injured Patients

Trauma & Health
Trauma & Health
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Sydney Timmer-Murillo (Section Editor),

Bianca Tocci, Tim Geier, & Terri deRoon-Cassini

EACH YEAR, APPROXIMATELY 3 MILLION INDIVIDUALS in the United States are hospitalized due to traumatic injuries sustained from events such as motor vehicle collisions, assaults, and falls (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). These experiences can place a significant burden on the individual, deleteriously impacting physical functioning and overall health-related quality of life (Zatzick et al., 2013). Beyond physical impact, individuals experiencing traumatic injury are at risk for developing a host of psychological concerns, with 23-45% of injured inpatients developing Acute Stress Disorder in the 30 days post-trauma, and 30-93% developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD; Wiseman, et al., 2013). Additionally, 28-42% of patients experience subsequent Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), making it another common response post-injury (deRoon-Cassini et al, 2019). These psychological reactions are shown to negatively impact physical health outcomes, making injured populations admitted to trauma centers a critical population to support. This is of increasing importance as we see rising numbers of injury through the pandemic as well as greater mental health impact of the pandemic (Sherman, et al., 2021). As such, there are increasing calls for more holistic, integrated approaches to recovery following injury that can address patients’ diverse needs (Shafran et al., 2017). Comprehensive approaches encompass the biopsychosocial factors (e.g., socioeconomic factors, social contexts) that contribute to a patient’s recovery in addition to their physical injuries. A biopsychosocial approach demands intervention for not only the acute physical morbidities, but also the associated psychological sequalae that may likely be impacting the patient and their disease trajectory.

Accounting for the holistic needs related to adjustment to new medical diagnoses or management of chronic conditions, health psychology services have become increasingly integrated into medical settings. Yet, despite the robust relationship between mental health and physical injury, there remain numerous barriers to properly addressing the mental health care needs among traumatically-injured individuals, such as stigma or disruption in medical care (Zatzick et al., 2013). The current review aims to highlight the critical role health psychologists and other mental health providers play within trauma centers, including screening, assessment, and intervention.

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