In Wuhan, China, late December 2019 saw many cases of a pneumonia that proved fatal quickly for an alarming number of those who were sick. Chinese researchers soon after identified a new virus that caused the disease. Named initially “2019-nCoV” that indicated that this is a novel (n) corona (Co) virus (V) identified in 2019, the condition came to be known as COVID-19 (corona virus disease).
By now “COVID-19” has penetrated nearly every aspect of life. Escalating numbers of cases, hospitalizations, death, along with media saturation, social distancing, and economic dislocation have affected a wide swath of life and lives in the US and the world.
In addition to the toll on physical health, the pandemic increasingly challenges the mental health of virtually everyone. Persons with pre-existing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety are at particular risk of increased distress. One primary care advocacy non-profit projects that “deaths of despair” resulting from this pandemic could be equal to the number of deaths from COVID-19.[i] A recent commentary in The Lancet Psychiatry drew on experiences from the 2003 SARS outbreak to call on clinical care givers to be aware of psychological trauma visited on clinical staff, people who have COVID-19, their contacts and families as well as the population at large.[ii] Everyone is at risk.
Fear, uncertainty, stigmatization, isolation, unemployment, financial stresses, conflicting data points, and sensational conspiracy theories all sow seeds of mental distress. IH providers can help themselves, their patients and their communities by following suggestions from the WHO[iii], the CDC[iv] and other organizations on how we can communicate with each other and with our patients to moderate the stressful effects that stretch out from the pandemic. Some suggestions:
Data and guidelines for IH treatment of COVID-19 are beginning to emerge.[v] [vi] [vii] However implementing effective evidence based communication strategies can and should be accomplished immediately.
[i] Petterson, S et al. “Projected Deaths of Despair During the Coronavirus Recession,” Well Being Trust. May 8, 2020. WellBeingTrust.org.
[ii] Yu-Tao Xiang, Yuan Yang, Wen Li, Ling Zhang, Qinge Zhang, Teris Cheung, Chee H Ng. Timely mental health care for the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak is urgently needed www.thelancet.com/psychiatry Vol 7 March 2020.
[iii] World Health Organization. Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak. https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf?sfvrsn=6d3578af_10
[iv] Center fro Disease Control and Prevention. COVD-19 Stress and Coping.
[v] Society for Acupuncture Research. https://www.acupunctureresearch.org/assets/WFAS-COVID19-2.pdf
[vi] National University of Naturopathic Medicine. https://nunm.edu/?s=covid-19
[vii] Johnson C, et al. Response of Chiropractic Organizations to the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Descriptive Report. JMPT April 20, 2020 (in press). https://www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754(20)30120-2/fulltext