Mental health interventions and supports during COVID- 19 and other medical pandemics: A rapid systematic review of the evidence

Sophie Soklaridis, Elizabeth Lin, Yasmin Lalani, Terri Rodak, Sanjeev Sockalingam
General Hospital Psychiatry 2020, 66: 133-146

BACKGROUND: Novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) is a global reminder of the need to attend to the mental health of patients and health professionals who are suddenly facing this public health crisis. In the last two decades, a number of medical pandemics have yielded insights on the mental health impact of these events. Based on these experiences and given the magnitude of the current pandemic, rates of mental health disorders are expected to increase. Mental health interventions are urgently needed to minimize the psychological sequelae and provide timely care to affected individuals.

METHOD: We conducted a rapid systematic review of mental health interventions during a medical pandemic, using three electronic databases. Of the 2404 articles identified, 21 primary research studies are included in this review.

RESULT: We categorized the findings from the research studies using the following questions: What kind of emotional reactions do medical pandemics trigger? Who is most at risk of experiencing mental health sequelae? What works to treat mental health sequelae (psychosocial interventions and implementation of existing or new training programs)? What do we need to consider when designing and implementing mental health interventions (cultural adaptations and mental health workforce)? What still needs to be known?

CONCLUSION: Various mental health interventions have been developed for medical pandemics, and research on their effectiveness is growing. We offer recommendations for future research based on the evidence for providing mental health interventions and supports to those most in need.

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