What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:
APRIL 15, 2020 — Although social distancing is slowing the spread of COVID-19, it will undoubtedly have negative consequences for mental health and well-being in both the short- and long-term, public health experts say.
In an article published online April 10 in JAMA Internal Medicine on the mental health consequences of COVID-19, the authors warn of a “pandemic” of behavioral problems and mental illness.
“COVID-19 is a traumatic event that we are all experiencing. We can well expect there to be a rise in mental illness nationwide,” first author Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, dean of the School of Public Health, Boston University, Massachusetts, told Medscape Medical News.
“Education about this, screening for those with symptoms, and availability of treatment are all important to mitigate the mental health consequences of COVID-19,” Galea added.
Anxiety, Depression, Child Abuse
The COVID-19 pandemic will likely result in “substantial” increases in anxiety and depression, substance use, loneliness, and domestic violence. In addition, with school closures, the possibility of an epidemic of child abuse is “very real,” the authors note.
As reported by Medscape Medical News, a recent national survey by the American Psychiatric Association showed COVID-19 is seriously affecting Americans’ mental health, with half of US adults reporting high levels of anxiety.
The authors suggest that three steps, taken now, can help prepare for the coming mental health problems and associated problems that will result from the pandemic.
The first step is to plan for the inevitability of loneliness and its sequelae as populations physically and socially isolate and to find ways to intervene.
To prepare, the authors suggest the use of digital technologies to mitigate the impact of social distancing, even while physical distancing. They also encourage places of worship, gyms, yoga studios, and other places people normally gather to offer regularly scheduled online activities.
Employers can also help by offering virtual technologies that enable employees to work from home and schools should develop and implement online learning for children.
“Even with all of these measures, there will still be segments of the population that are lonely and isolated. This suggests the need for remote approaches for outreach and screening for loneliness and associated mental health conditions so that social support can be provided,” the authors note.