The COVID-19 outbreak: impact on mental health and intervention strategies

Dalila Talevi 1, Francesca Pacitti 1, Valentina Socci 1, Giulio Renzi 1, Maria Cristina Alessandrini 1, Edoardo Trebbi 2, Rodolfo Rossi 3

1 Department of Biotechnological and Applied Clinical Sciences (DISCAB), University of L’Aquila, Italy; 2 Research Student Programme, Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; 3 Chair of Psychiatry, Department of Systems Medicine, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy

Although the psychological and psychiatric implications seem to be a central core of health problems during an emergency, they tend to be underestimated and neglected, generating gaps in intervention strategies and increasing the burden of associated diseases. Moreover, pharmacological treatment concerns arise for psychiatrists and the other specialists who deal with psychiatric patients affected by an infectious disease or with patients with an infectious disease that may develop a number of psychiatric symptoms. The mental health consequences of a pandemic may be related to the sequelae of the disease itself or to the preventive measures aimed at containing the spread of infections. In addition, fear of death, drastic changes in family organization and work routines, closings of schools, companies and public places can play a role. Furthermore, stress derived from working activity or economic losses should not be underestimated. In the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, first studies have shown the presence of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia in the general population, health-care workers, and people affected by COVID-19. It appears likely that there will be substantial increases in a broad range of other mental disorders, suicide, behavioral disorders, loneliness, domestic violence and child abuse. From these considerations, the evaluation and monitoring of psychological/psychiatric conditions of involved populations, and the provision of focused aid must be part of the care intervention during the initial stage of a pandemic and beyond. The aim of this review is to summarize the current evidence on how mental health outcomes of COVID-19 outbreak have been measured and managed.

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