Experts studying the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are increasingly concerned about the psychological ramifications of the epidemic, particularly for older adults and medical staff working on the ground. The issue has been raised in several correspondence pieces published in Lancet Psychiatry
Preceding the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, the Chinese government had developed guidelines to improve mental health and psychological crisis interventions related to public health emergencies.1
However, as Duan and Zhu note, these procedures have several shortcomings, including a lack of coordination between medical departments engaging in psychological interventions and decoupling of efforts by community and mental health services
Epidemics take a significant toll on the general populace. However, healthcare workers are especially vulnerable to stress and sleep trouble. In the Second Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, China, staff attempted to alleviate pressures on caregivers through psychological intervention medical teams, an assistance hotline, and other interventions such as group activities.2
However, as Chen et al observed, “medical staff were reluctant to participate in the group or individual psychology interventions provided,” with some nurses denying challenges despite signs of irritability and distress.2
To meet the needs of frontline healthcare workers, the intervention was adjusted by offering a place for rest and time alone and facilitating leisure activities to reduce stress. In addition, the hospital guaranteed food and other necessities.
Overall, the COVID-19 epidemic has underscored potential gaps in mental health services during emergencies, while also testing the resilience of healthcare workers and medical systems. In light of the rise in psychological problems during this epidemic, including anxiety, depression, and stress,5
public health advocates and government officials can learn from previous shortcomings to develop better responses. In fact, mental health challenges may be rooted in problems preceding the epidemic. As Duan and Zhu noted, “Interventions should be based on a comprehensive assessment of risk factors leading to psychological issues, including poor mental health before a crisis, bereavement, injury to self or family members, life-threatening circumstances, panic, separation from family and low household income.”
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