Mental health and psychosocial support strategies in highly contagious emerging disease outbreaks

Added November 14, 2021

Citation: Kunzler AM, Stoffers-Winterling J, Stoll M, et al. Mental health and psychosocial support strategies in highly contagious emerging disease outbreaks of substantial public concern: A systematic scoping review. PLoS ONE. 2021;16(2):e0244748.

Language: Abstract and full text only available in EN.

Free to view: Yes.

Funding sources: German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the Network for University Medicine.

What is this? Disease outbreaks can impact on the mental health of healthcare workers and the general population.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies of psychological interventions before, during and after emerging infectious disease outbreaks (SARS, MERS, Ebola and COVID-19) for healthcare workers, community members and individuals at risk. They did not restrict their searches by date, language or status of publication and did the search on 7 May 2020. They included 19 studies (including two randomised trials), which were from Canada (2 studies), China (1), Hong Kong (2), Liberia (2), Sierra Leone (4), Sierra Leona and Liberia (2), South Korea (1), Taiwan (1), USA (3) and West Africa (1). They also identified an additional 7 unpublished studies.

What was found: Providing individuals with information related to infectious disease outbreaks and teaching them psychological coping strategies improved psychological outcomes.

The use of a train the trainer models and provision of interventions by trained peers can be beneficial.

Healthcare workers, patients and the general population experienced higher psychological stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting from factors such as quarantine measures.

Implications: The authors of the review stated that psychological interventions must adapt to the cultural context of the respective group or community. They stated that further research is needed to inform policy and practice on mental health and psychological support before, during and after infectious disease outbreaks.

Other considerations: The authors of the review discussed their findings in the context of occupation, age, education and culture.


This summary was prepared by Yasmeen Saeed, edited by Firas Khalid and finalized by Mike Clarke.

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