The Need for Prevention and Early Intervention
by Sandro Galea, MDRaina M. Merchant, MD andNicole Lurie, MD
“Since the first case of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was diagnosed in December 2019, it has swept across the world and galvanized global action. This has brought unprecedented efforts to institute the practice of physical distancing (called in most cases ‘social distancing’) in countries all over the world, resulting in changes in national behavioral patterns and shutdowns of usual day-to-day functioning.
“While these steps may be critical to mitigate the spread of this disease, they will undoubtedly have consequences for mental health and well-being in both the short and long term. These consequences are of sufficient importance that immediate efforts focused on prevention and direct intervention are needed to address the impact of the outbreak on individual and population level mental health.
“The sparse literature on the mental health consequences of epidemics relates more to the sequelae of the disease itself (eg, mothers of children with congenital Zika syndrome) than to social distancing. However, large-scale disasters, whether traumatic (eg, the World Trade Center attacks or mass shootings), natural (eg, hurricanes), or environmental (eg, Deepwater Horizon oil spill), are almost always accompanied by increases in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, a broad range of other mental and behavioral disorders, domestic violence, and child abuse.”
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