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The Next COVID Crisis - Mental Health

December 23, 2020
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A post by Lori Daugherty in medcitynews.com discusses a "second curve" of COVID-19 - related mental health cases. The pandemic has killed over one million worldwide (over 300,000 in the United States) leaving survivors with increased anxiety, depression and sometimes substance abuse. If not mitigated this will lead to more deaths.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, 33% of Americans have difficulty handling stress, anxiety or sadness in social isolation. About 10% of individuals who have lost a loved one are affected by "prolonged grief disorder" lasting at least six months and leading to increased risk of suicide and substance abuse. The risk increases if individuals have pre-existing mental health conditions.

According to studies of previous pandemics, mental trauma can last as long as three years after the disease ends. Health care professionals - many already at the breaking point - are most at risk.

To counteract this second curve requires an effort to identify at risk individuals, implement early intervention and follow through. Organizations need to include mental health in their benefits programs and provide employees access to interact via phone calls and virtual gatherings.