Past Epidemics, Natural Disasters, COVID19, and Mental Health: Learning from History as we Deal with the Present and Prepare for the Future

As cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to rise, psychological endurance is a challenge many people will face. For mental health, heightened stress responses to the pandemic, is likely to manifest in three ways: 1) development of a new episode of a disorder in those with a predisposition to a major psychiatric disorder or an acute exacerbation in those who already have such a disorder, 2) development of a trauma or stressor related disorder, such as acute stress disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or adjustment disorders, and 3) development of a symptomatic stress response that does not meet the diagnostic criteria of a psychiatric disorder. The authors reviewed existing literature on past epidemics, natural disasters, and COVID-19 with a focus on psychiatry and mental health. Psychological effects of past epidemics (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoV-1, Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, the Anthrax threat), past natural disasters, and current COVID-19 data suggest numerous psychological effects following the pandemic. Alcohol use, PTSD, anxiety, anger, fear of contagion, perceived risk, uncertainty, and distrust are a few of the immediate and long-term effects that are likely to result from the COVID-19 pandemic. Identifying people in need of mental health care and determining the appropriate psychiatric services and therapy needed will be important. Increasing the use and availability of telehealth, group meetings, and online resources are some ways that health care workers can prepare for the increasing demand of psychiatric services during and following the pandemic.



About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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