Man's psychotic episode sparked by Brexit vote - medical journal

Incident shows ‘toll’ political events can have on mental health, notes top medical journal

The man described feeling ashamed to be British and said he lived in a constituency ‘that reflects an opinion that is not for me’.

The man described feeling ashamed to be British and said he lived in a constituency ‘that reflects an opinion that is not for me’.

 

A middle-aged man had a psychotic episode triggered by the UK’s 2016 referendum on Brexit, according to a report in a leading medical journal.

The incident demonstrates the serious toll political events can take on mental health, his treating doctor writes in the journal BMJ Case Reports. People who are already psychologically vulnerable may be particularly at risk in such circumstances, he suggests.

The British man in the report was brought to hospital by paramedics in an acute psychotic state, three weeks after the referendum result on the UK’s departure from the EU in June 2016.

He was confused and very agitated, with disordered thoughts and speech. He heard voices and was delusional. He was also paranoid, believing people were spying on him and planning to kill him and that radio and television discussions were targeted at him.

His wife explained that since the referendum result he had found it increasingly difficult to come to terms with the nature of political events around him. He became increasingly worried about racially motivated incidents and found it difficult to sleep, she said.

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From a multicultural background, the man described feeling ashamed to be British and said he lived in a constituency “that reflects an opinion that is not for me”.

Recovery after three weeks

Despite being prescribed drugs to alleviate his agitation and insomnia, his mental health continued to worsen to the point that he needed urgent hospital treatment.

He was admitted to a psychiatric unit, given a tranquillizer to calm him down and prescribed an antipsychotic for about three weeks.

He made a full recovery, was discharged home after two weeks and has had no further episodes.

There was no history of mental ill-health in his family. But in the run-up to the referendum, he had experienced work and family pressures, both of which may have contributed to the deterioration in his mental health, notes the author, a psychiatrist in Nottingham.

While this was just one case with particular circumstances, political events can be a source of significant psychological stress, according to the doctor.

Separate studies have indicated the 2016 US presidential election, and Britain’s Brexit referendum, were significant sources of stress in their respective populations.

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