Psychiatric Annals

Guest Editorial Free

Mental Health Issues in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lenard A. Adler, MD

This issue of Psychiatric Annals presents a discussion of several aspects of mental health issues during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has had monumental effects on the general public and the health care system; at the time of this writing there were 2,302,302 total cases of COVID-19 and 120,333 deaths from COVID-19 in the United States.1 Data emerging from the early experience with COVID-19 from China indicate that there are significant mental issues arising from COVID-19 exposure for the general public2 and specifically for health care workers.3 The volume of COVID-19 cases also placed a significant and unprecedented demand on the health care system, resulting in increased need for intensive care unit beds and redeployment of physicians in every field to medical services. A survey at NYU Langone Health from March 1, 2020 to April 8, 2020 reported that of the 11,544 people tested for the COVID-19 virus, 5,566 (48.2%) were positive; slightly more than one-half of them were admitted to the hospital,4 indicating the high number of cases and burden on the medical system in New York City.

This issue highlights some of the mental health issues facing health care systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights, in part, some lessons learned from the response at NYU Langone Health. The articles deal with differing aspects of the response to the pandemic including (1) how the consultation/liaison psychiatry service responded and developed a model for remote (virtual) consultation, (2) the process of development of wellness programs for health care staff, (3) a review of the development of acute stress disorder, and (4) guidelines for redeploying psychiatrists to medicine during a pandemic crisis. Although the response to the pandemic has been a demanding task, there is always an opportunity to learn from our efforts; these articles are one attempt to take that next step forward in learning from our collective experiences.

I extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to this important issue.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC COVID data tracker. Accessed June 9, 2020.
  2. Wang C, Pan R, Wan X, Tan Y, Xu L, Ho CS, Ho RC. Immediate psychological responses and associated factors during the initial stage of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic among the general population in China. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(5):1729. doi:10.3390/ijerph17051729 [CrossRef]. PMID:32155789
  3. Lai J, Ma S, Wang Y, et al. Factors associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers exposed to coronavirus disease 2019. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(3):e203976. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976 [CrossRef]. PMID:32202646
  4. Petrilli CM, Jones SA, Yang J, et al. Factors associated with hospital admission and critical illness among 5,279 people with coronavirus disease 2019 in New York City: prospective cohort study [online ahead of print May 22, 2020]. BMJ. doi:10.1136/bmj.m1966 [CrossRef]
Lenard A. Adler, MD

Lenard A. Adler, MD, is the Vice Chair of Education, Department of Psychiatry, and a Professor of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, New York University (NYU) Grossman School of Medicine.

Address correspondence to Lenard A. Adler, MD, Department of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Grossman School of Medicine, One Park Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10016; email:

Disclosure: Lenard A. Adler has received grant/research support from Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Enzymotec, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Otsuka and Lundbeck; has served as a consultant to Bracket, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, Shire Pharmaceuticals, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, SUNY, the National Football League, and Major League Baseball; and has received royalty payments (as inventor) since 2004 from NYU for license of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder scales and training materials.


Sign up to receive

Journal E-contents