Last week, we shared updates from International Advisory Committee members in the UK, Romania, Australia, Brazil and the Netherlands. This week, committee members from six more countries write about how the pandemic and related social distancing measures are impacting mental health in their countries and how they’ve been helping. We are pleased to share the following updates and related resources.
Antonella Montano, PhD, shares her perspective from Italy, one of the hardest-hit nations and one of the first to go on country-wide lockdown:
In Italy, the situation is still very serious. The number of inpatients at the hospitals is slightly decreasing, but the number of people infected is not decreasing as much. Masks are difficult to obtain, as well as any other medical equipment. Some of my patients, who are MDs and are infected, are scared. The other ones are, as everyone else, worried, especially for economic reasons and scenarios that will happen soon. The economic situation in Italy was difficult even before COVID-19. I think that one of the most useful things for therapists is to deepen their knowledge of COVID, from a medical point of view, and its ways of spreading, in order to be informed and give correct information to clients.
Dmitrii Kovpak, MD, has been actively involved in disseminating information about how CBT can help people suffering from anxiety and depression during the pandemic, both in his native Russia and around the world. In addition to interacting with the media, he has organized free webinars, and distributed a children’s book about COVID-19. He writes:
Many people are seriously concerned and fear for their health and future and the health and life of their elderly relatives. People fear losing their jobs and the means to maintain their previous standard of living. There are a large number of complaints about anxiety, and we try to support our anxious and depressed patients in these difficult days with information, resources, and webinars. [To help clients, clinicians need] more information and guidance materials on dealing with anxiety and fear of illness and the future, including economic crisis, upheaval, job loss, and hunger.
Below are two articles Dr. Kovpak was interviewed for (in Russian) and a helpful diagram he created (in English):
Yutaka Ono, MD, shares the following update from Japan:
After the government declared the state of emergency, the number of people in the city of Tokyo became half and most people wear face masks. We became very conscious about social distancing recently. Because the restriction is not strict in Japan, our daily life has not changed so much. However, the owners and workers of small shops and restaurants appear to have a difficult time. Members of our association are working hard to help patients, because many patients became anxious and depressive. I have created videos and written articles in the newspaper to teach people how to handle anxiety and depression using CBT techniques. I also shared a CBT chatbot for free during this difficult period.
Gregoris Simos, MD, PhD, writes from Greece:
The situation in Greece is probably one of the best in Europe, since we had a lockdown quite early and consequently the number of new cases daily is very small and almost steady. We hope that it will remain like this in the next couple of very critical weeks. Our Greek Association for Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapies and I are trying to be as active as we can in our effort to help our fellow Greeks, since both the COVID-19 as well the lockdown and the social distancing situations are so anxiety, anger, frustration and depression-provoking. We are currently collaborating with universities from the UK, Italy and Spain in a research project on "Uncertainty in Coronavirus (COVID-19)." The idea behind this project is that COVID-19 offers a unique context in which we can attempt to learn more about the relationship between uncertainty, anxiety and how people respond when feeling uncertain.
The recording of Dr. Simos’s livestream presentation with other board members of the Greek Association for Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapies, and a recording of his 30-minute lecture on coping with uncertainty in the era of coronavirus, can be watched here (in Greek):
Jianping Wang, MD, PhD, visited the US in mid-January and has been unable to return to China due to travel restrictions. Despite that, she has been actively involved in the mental health response in China, which has been conducted online. She writes:
As a member of the Standing Committee, Professional Committee of Clinical Psychology of Chinese Psychological Society, I personally participated in responding to COVID-19 as a mental health professional and I have been busy with psychological assistance-related work. I am the Chief Supervisor of the nationwide psychological assistance hotline against COVID-19 operated by Beijing Normal University where I serve as Professor. I am also on the expert team for the hotline service designated by Chinese National Education Department. During this pandemic, I provided free psychological/CBT real time lectures and trainings on various media. Currently I am organizing a project to train Grief Counselors to serve those bereaved who lost their loved ones to COVID-19 in China. This project operated under the Group of Grief and Bereavement of the Chinese Psychological Society. We have established a professional team in the shortest time possible to help.
Several of her online training videos (in Mandarin) can be accessed below:
She also shared an article from Peking University Sixth Hospital/Institute of Mental Health, outlining China’s experience with the mental health response to COVID-19 (in Chinese):
David A. Clark, PhD, writes that although his immediate area in a semi-rural part of eastern Canada has been relatively unaffected by COVID-19, life is still very different:
We are not allowed to offer in-person sessions so we have all switched to teletherapy sessions. At this point, only about half of my clients have been willing to make the switch. The other half decided to hold off on their therapy sessions for a while. This may change as the social restrictions continue but my sense is that people are focused on the new reality and some of the personal issues that contributed to their treatment seeking have become less urgent. I’m writing a weekly bulletin for my former and current clients, and other interested individuals, that summarizes a couple of key issues and also provides 1-2 links to resources that I think are particularly helpful. So this week I’m focusing on how to think about our social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions and some key points we can learn from the research on continuous trauma. I also have a regular blog with Psychology Today that deals with specific topics. Last week’s blog dealt with Living with Uncertainty.
Dr. Clark’s Psychology Today blog can be found here:
Find more resources on our COVID-19 resource bank.