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Learning from history: supporting clients living with the neuropsychiatric impact of Covid-19


27 May 2020

Solicitors supporting clients with neurological conditions and brain injuries should be aware of the significant psychological stressors presented by Covid-19 over the coming months, as well as lessons from history about the long-term neurological impact of pandemics on individuals and society.

Pandemics cause fear, anxiety and stress

The psychological stressors facing individuals across the globe – fear of illness, of the impact of social distancing and of future financial implications of a recession – will be experienced by those people who have already experienced significant psychological and cognitive symptoms as a result of illness and injury.

With disruption to coping abilities, memory problems and anxiety often experienced by people living with the impact of neurological conditions, it’s crucial that individuals are given extra time and support to understand questions and respond to requests for information.

Disruption to health and medical services

As highlighted in a recent report by the British Society of Rehabilitation Medicine, Covid-19 is having an enormous impact on rehabilitation services. The wider health and social care community is being hit hard in different ways.

Individuals receiving care and rehabilitation in hospitals, nursing homes and in specialist community services are at a high risk of contracting Covid-19, causing the high anxiety mentioned previously, and may also be experiencing disruption to planned operations or therapeutic interventions as care providers cope with reduced staffing levels and redeployment of staff.

The historic link between pandemics and long-term mental health conditions

Following pandemic flu outbreaks in the late 1800s, doctors reported a rise in cases of mental health conditions in the population – including schizophrenia, insomnia, depression, anxiety and other conditions which scientists termed the ‘psychoses of influenza’.

Neurological conditions and symptoms post Covid-19 infection

The 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak led to an increase in encephalitis cases across the globe – an uncommon but very serious inflammation of the brain.

In more recent history, the Swine Flu (H1N1) pandemic which hit the world in 2009 led to an increase in neurological conditions including Guillain-Barre syndrome, fatigue and encephalitis too.

The evidence from history tells us to expect the same with Covid-19, and indeed over a third of people experience neurological issues following initial infection, many of those being long term .

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