COVID-19 has put a spotlight on important health topics such as public health, infectious disease management and vaccine development. Mental and behavioral health is another critical area that has come to the forefront as a result of the pandemic. In fact, mental health resources have been among the most downloaded clinical content on Elsevier’s COVID-19 Healthcare Hub, following disease information and drug monographs.
Over the past year, millions of people have dealt with issues related to isolation from family, friends and coworkers; grief and the loss of loved ones; and anxiety about being infected or losing employment. Uncertainty about the future has also escalated existing problems such as domestic abuse and substance use disorders.
In most countries, primary care is the first and sometimes only resource for mental health treatment, but that focus can sometimes be overlooked due to time constraints in treating other ailments or measured risk factors (obesity, smoking, substance/drug abuse).
For those treating patients in the primary care setting, it is important to discuss, screen and implement the following on a regular basis:
- Always ask your patient if they ever have thoughts of suicide. While patients may not necessarily show signs of hopelessness or despair, it’s important to ask in case it is something they are contemplating. The evidence indicates that suicide rates have increased during the pandemic.1
- Always check on your patient’s safety and ask about their home life. Domestic violence is on the rise during the pandemic, affecting the elderly, children and intimate partners.2
- It is essential to screen for depression and anxiety for all patients, particularly during the pandemic, when so many patients are overwhelmed and having difficulty coping with the stressors in their lives.3
- Screen for substance use disorders on each patient visit. The connection between depression, anxiety and substance abuse is clear.4 During the pandemic, it is essential that we not ignore these disorders since they can have a devastating impact on patients, their families and the community.
Thank you to Loraine Fleming, DNP, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC, Clinical Editor, Digital Content, for Elsevier Clinical Solutions, for her clinical contributions to this article.
Mental health resources for clinicians
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and Elsevier is proud to offer free mental health resources and tools for clinicians to help treat patients on a wide range of conditions. Our new primary care toolkit provides the latest guidance, screening tools and research for some of the most common medical issues.
To access the toolkit and other free resources, including patient education materials, please visit Elsevier’s Healthcare Hub.
1Gunnell, D et al: Suicide risk and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Lancet Psychiatry (April 2020)
2Boserup, B et al: Alarming trends in US domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine (Dec 2020)
3Lee, SA et al: Incremental validity of coronaphobia: Coronavirus anxiety explains depression, generalized anxiety, and death anxiety, Journal of Anxiety Disorders (Aug 2020)
4McHugh, RK et al: The relationship between perceived stress and depression in substance use disorder treatment, Drug and Alcohol Dependence (Feb 2020)
- Cénat, JM et al: Prevalence of symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and psychological distress among populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research (Jan 2021)
- Santabárbara, J et al: Prevalence of anxiety in the COVID-19 pandemic: An updated meta-analysis of community-based studies, Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry (July 2021)
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