Psych Congress

Psych Congress

Source:

Correll C, et al. Welcome Session: The COVID-19 pandemic impact on mental health care. Presented at: Psych Congress 2020 Virtual Experience; Sept. 10-13, 2020 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Healio Psychiatry was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at time of reporting.
September 11, 2020
3 min read
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COVID-19 pandemic has provided mental health professionals with psychiatric insights

Source:

Correll C, et al. Welcome Session: The COVID-19 pandemic impact on mental health care. Presented at: Psych Congress 2020 Virtual Experience; Sept. 10-13, 2020 (virtual meeting).

Disclosures: Healio Psychiatry was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at time of reporting.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has provided mental health care providers with opportunities to gain insights into patient psychiatry during a public health crisis, according to experts who presented at the Psych Congress 2020 Virtual Experience.

Christoph U. Correll, MD
Christoph Correll

Some of these insights will likely come via the Collaborative Outcomes Study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times (COH-FIT), which is a large international survey conducted among entire populations of countries affected by the virus.

“This study is designed to be an anonymous survey in three waves — one during the COVID-19 pandemic, one 6 months after it is declared over by the WHO and one is 12 months after is has been declared over,” Christoph Correll, MD, professor of psychiatry and molecular medicine at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, said during the presentation. “We want to see whether there are long-lasting effects, and the main focus is really on the physical and mental health effects of COVID-19 among the general population but also among subgroups, including frontline workers, health care workers, young people, older people, patients with prior psychiatric or physical illness, immigrants and so forth.”

Correll and colleagues also aim to assess the pandemic’s effects on access to care, which has changed substantially because of shifts in telemedicine procedures, as well as coping strategies that may help patients deal with the impact of the current and future waves of COVID-19. Specifically, survey questions will inquire about individuals’ coping strategies related to numerous factors, including time spent outdoors, communicating with others, engaging in sports, meditating, sexual behaviors and drug abuse to overall evaluate both positive and negative coping strategies.

The investigators aim to have survey data of 100,000 adults by October, according to Correll.

Christine Moutier, MD, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, provided an overview of suicide related to the pandemic and its societal effects.

Although the CDC released survey results showing elevated rates of suicidal ideation among the general public since the pandemic began, data are missing for suicide deaths.

“The CDC does not actually have a way to do surveillance related to suicide deaths in real time, and so we will have to wait approximately another 18 months to have the answer about the impact of COVID-19 on suicide rates, at least on a national basis or on a state-wide basis,” Moutier said during the presentation.

Further, she urged caution regarding the media’s tendency to extrapolate from small data points, which have not been found to provide meaningful information in past instances. However, Moutier noted that it is currently possible to gain insights into rates of help-seeking, the national dialogue around mental health, individuals’ willingness to talk with people they are concerned about and overall willingness to seek therapy.

“All of that is showing incredibly positive changes during COVID-19, despite so much suffering going on,” Moutier said.

Before the pandemic, the percentage of the population that was connecting to mental health services and psychiatric/psychological treatment was “quite dismal,” but results of a Harris Poll conducted in July showed 26% of American adults reported currently seeking mental health treatment through virtual means, such as teletherapy.

“People are actually using much more proactive measures to figure out how to get through this period of time, and that could deepen the mental health literacy that’s actionable for the average American,” Moutier said.

Peng Pang, MD, MSc, MBA, associate program director and residency training director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, who established a peer support group for frontline health care workers in China, noted that the long-term psychological effects of COVID-19 will be similar but feature key differences according to cultural context.

“People in China may be less likely to express their feelings, and there may be less health-seeking behaviors,” Pang said during the presentation. “[Many] may feel that it’s shameful, or if they ask for help, they feel like they’re weak.”

In the United States, according to Pang, the mental health situation appears to offer more support and acceptance, despite the lack of mental health literacy and the presence of some stigmatization.

“I think [American] staff are more willing to seek help, and mental health care providers [in the U.S.] in identifying the risk factors and then providing outreach services,” Pang said.